The court recognized that Beatriz has lupus, but it said that her disease was currently under control and that the threat to her life “is not actual or imminent, but rather eventual.” It ordered that her health continue to be closely monitored, saying that if complications arose that put her right to life in imminent danger doctors “could proceed with interventions.”We could discuss whether the court in El Salvador is "misogynistic," but I would like to direct discussion toward how we — especially Americans — think about access to late-term abortion. Let's say Woman A has a health problem (like lupus) that makes pregnancy risky, but she chooses to go forward with the pregnancy, because she wants a child. Later, past the point of viability, a serious birth defect becomes apparent, and she assesses the risk differently. She wants to abort because of a combination of the health risk and the low value she puts on the specific unborn child she knows she is carrying. Woman B has no health problem, but she finds out, equally late in a pregnancy, that her child has the same birth defect. There are 3 moral positions available: 1. Neither woman should be permitted to have an abortion, 2. Both women should be permitted to have an abortion, and 3. Woman A must be permitted to have an abortion, but Woman B must be forbidden.
While abortion is banned, doctors are allowed to induce premature birth if the mother is facing imminent risk, possibly saving the life of the mother and the baby at the same time, according to José Miguel Fortín Magaña, director of the Institute of Legal Medicine, which advises the court on medical issues.
In the ruling, the court cited doctors as saying that “an eventual interruption of the pregnancy would not imply, much less have as an objective, the destruction of the fetus.”
Beatriz’s lawyer, however, described the ruling as “misogynistic” because it placed the rights of a fetus with little chance of surviving after birth over the welfare of a sick woman who already has an infant boy to care for. “The court placed the life of the anencephalic baby over Beatriz’s life,” said Víctor Hugo Mata, one of her lawyers, speaking by phone from the Supreme Court. “Justice here does not respect the rights of women.”
I think position #3 is hard to understand and suspect that those who are arguing for position #3 are setting up the argument for position #2. It seems that the supposed appeal of Beatriz's case is that her baby is relatively worthless, but if we are willing to mark some severely disabled human beings as low value, why shouldn't any woman be able to avoid the pains of late pregnancy and childbirth? That is, we move toward position #2. But if you commit to the right to life and say — like the right-to-life spokesperson at the link — that you must protect "all human beings however small, poor, vulnerable or defenseless," don't you have to go to position #1, at least until the point where the medical procedure to be performed is for the precise end of saving the woman's life and not aimed at destroying the child?
UPDATE: Following the court's opinion, doctors performed a Caesarean section, and the baby lived for 5 hours and died. That is, the child's personhood was respected, the woman's health needs were met, and the abortion-rights demagoguery became more obvious.