By: Minerva Solano and Diana Herrero Villareal
Beatriz was a Salvadoran woman whose case shocked the world. At 21, Beatriz, who suffered from lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, became pregnant. The fetus was diagnosed with anencephaly, meaning it would not survive. Given Beatriz’s health conditions, the termination of her pregnancy became a fight against the clock to save her life.
Despite the fact that the fetus had no chance of survival, Beatriz’s desire for a dignified life and the medical committee’s assessment meant it took 81 days before her pregnancy was terminated. Sadly, during the pregnancy Beatriz was subject to torturous conditions, which caused lasting physical and psychological aftereffects that would eventually lead to her death.
In El Salvador, pregnancy termination, whether spontaneous or voluntary, is a crime for which 196 women have been prosecuted in the last 20 years. Many of them face prison sentences of up to 50 years. In addition, many health professionals who are able to perform abortions in El Salvador fear imprisonment for doing the procedure. Despite this being a common condition, El Salvador has no legislation to safeguard the life and well-being of women and pregnant women who find themselves in the same situation as Beatriz.
During her appearance at the public hearing at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on March 22, Beatriz’s mother pointed out that her daughter was a victim, among many other things, of persecution for needing to terminate her pregnancy to save her life. In addition, the doctor in charge of Beatriz’s procedure made it clear that she trusted the Salvadoran medical system since she barely had enough resources to travel to her follow-up appointments with him.
Femicide of the Bourgeois State
Femicide, or the murder of a woman (or feminized body) for being a woman, is the ultimate and most extreme expression of violence and terror. The crime perpetrated against Beatriz is femicide* carried out by the Salvadoran bourgeois State against a young working-class mother. The Salvadoran bourgeois State reduces women and pregnant people, especially those who do not have the money or resources to travel to other countries to end a pregnancy, into mere incubators that must continue to reproduce the industrial reserve army even if it costs them their lives.
In the event of a just ruling, the Salvadoran State will be accused of violating Beatriz’s human rights. Although Beatriz’s case is symbolic and has attracted international attention to what is happening in this Central American nation, it is not unique. El Salvador is not the only Central American country where dictatorships and authoritarian governments are constantly attacking the right of women and pregnant people to make decisions about their own bodies.
Furter, Costa Rica is no exception to what is happening in neighboring countries. Carlos Alvarado used the signing of the technical standard for the therapeutic interruption of pregnancy as a bargaining chip to obtain political favors while the current government of Rodrigo Chaves threatened to repeal it.
The fight against anti-rights groups
On March 22, feminist collectives organized a rally outside the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) to watch the live broadcast of the public hearing, to show solidarity with the movement in other countries and to share their pain. However, in this space of dignity, respect, and honor, a group of anti-rights groups, supported by the misogynist discourse of the president, his cabinet and deputies, gathered to demonstrate in the same space, under the misleading slogan of being “in favor of saving both lives.” During this act of provocation, a group of men with flags infringed on the space agreed upon the night before and approached the awning set up by the feminist groups. Despite the heavy police presence in the street in front of the IACHR Court, the police only approached the anti-rights provocation when specifically asked to do so. Subsequently, they reluctantly withdrew from the area at the request of one of the feminist leaders.
From their discourse based on the so-called “four lies about Beatriz’s case,” this anti-rights group has sought to depoliticize and de-genericize the femicide perpetrated by the Salvadoran bourgeois state. They falsely state that both lives could have been saved when specialists in the case have confirmed with evidence that this was not possible. Furthermore, these groups negate the fact that Beatriz was subject to the violence because she was a woman and exploited by the capitalist system.
It is false that anti-rights movements seek to save both lives, as tragically demonstrated in this case where the fetus would not survive, and the woman ended up dying in part because she did not have full access to abortion. Anti-rights groups display a misogynistic disregard for women’s life, health, and decision-making capacity, especially working-class, often racialized women. The World Health Organization has documented that restricting access to terminate unviable or unwanted pregnancies does not reduce the number of abortions but results in unsafe conditions that fail to deliver any babies and endanger women’s lives.
The Social Struggle for Women’s Access to Health Care
Representatives of various feminist collectives throughout Central America have come forward and organized to support the pursuit of justice for Beatriz and many other women murdered by Central American bourgeois states. However, despite the optimism that a resolution in Beatriz’s favor might bring, it is imperative to remember that these victories will never be final or lasting as long as capitalism remains in place.
We must continue to organize ourselves for the struggle, battle by battle, for the emancipation of working women from all oppression and exploitation. In this sense, the PT supports the international movement to demand Justice for Beatriz. In Costa Rica, we also defend the technical standard for the interruption of pregnancy and support full and guaranteed access to this health procedure for women regardless of class or nationality. We believe that taking up the struggle for access to health care for women, including their reproductive health and their right to decide about their bodies, is a task for all political organizations that defend the working class, unions, political parties, and others because our struggle must seek to end all types of exploitation and oppression.
Justice for Beatriz !
No life is saved by eliminating access to therapeutic abortion!
In Costa Rica, we need the technical standard to prevent the death of women!
Women demand the power to decide over our bodies and our lives!
We demand free and legal abortion so that no worker dies in clandestine abortions!
Free and quality contraceptives for all ages and nationalities!
Secular and scientific sex education for youth!
*Note: We use femicide when a woman is murdered because of her gender, understanding that the state is always directly or indirectly responsible.