Inter-American Court Hears Case on Access to Abortion
Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) held hearings on an abortion case against El Salvador—Beatriz v. El Salvador—brought by pro-abortion activists who seek to not only decriminalize abortion in El Salvador but hope for a broad favorable ruling which will impact abortion across Latin American and the Caribbean. The case is being called an ‘historic moment’; only five countries in Latin America and the Caribbean allow access to abortion with tight restrictions or prohibitions in the remaining countries.

Beatriz was pregnant with her second child in 2013 when she was diagnosed with Lupus and her child was reported to be anencephalic. Her case became a rallying cry for pro-abortion legal activists who used the inter-American legal system to petition the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of Beatriz so she could have an abortion after the Supreme Court of El Salvador denied the request. The IACHR granted a provisionary measure at the 26th week of pregnancy for an emergency c-section which the unborn baby, named Leilani, did not survive. The next month the Commission asked the Court to hear the case and adopt provisional measures which would be binding on El Salvador.

Ten years later the Court has heard the case but Beatriz died in 2017 in a motorcycle accident; pro-abortion organizations are now the plaintiffs.

The medical testimony given during the hearing demonstrates the use of Beatriz to push for access to abortion. Dr. Guillermo Ortíz, former chief of obstetrics at the largest maternity hospital in El Salvador, and now the Central America Director for abortion provider Ipas, told the judges that Beatriz’s pregnancy was “high risk” but that “his hands had been tied in terms of offering her an abortion.”

Dr. Rafael Barahona, a doctor from the maternity hospital with experience in high-risk pregnancies, presented a completely different opinion declaring that the pregnancy was not life-threatening and that Beatriz’s Lupus was under control. El Salvador’s pro-life group Fundacion Sí a la Vida thanked former U.S Commissioner Paolo Carozza for his testimony during the hearing and for speaking about the American Convention on Human Rights which recognizes the dignity of human life from conception, and the right to life of the unborn without discrimination under any exception. Carozza declared, "El Salvador protected the dignity of both".

The seven judges of the Court heard the arguments of the plaintiffs, the representatives of El Salvador and witnesses on both sides. Interested parties have 30 days to deliver written arguments which will then be reviewed and debated. A resolution is expected by the end of the year but it is not binding.

Pro-abortion leaders do not expect President Nayib Bukele to comply with any pro-abortion decision the Court may make. President Bukele has expressed his pro-life position referring to his own daughter saying, “When my wife and I went to see the

first ultrasound, and we saw that little heart, to me, it was already my daughter. And thinking about destroying or killing her... It’s difficult. Even if it’s the child of a rapist, it’s your child.” In 2021, he opposed any attempts to legalize abortion, comparing abortion to genocide.

Pro-life groups protested outside the headquarters of the IACtHR in Costa Rica and organized prayer vigils. Costa Rican lawmaker Fabricio Alvarado, president of the Ibero-American Congress For Life and Family, attended the hearing expressing concern that the Court in deciding such a case is ignoring the sovereignty of El Salvador and all of Latin American countries. He presented a joint declaration in support of the life-affirming American Convention on Human Rights signed by more than 325 congressmen from across Latin America.