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Abortion in El Salvador is illegal. The law formerly permitted an abortion to be performed under some limited circumstances, but, in 1998, all exceptions were removed when a new abortion law went into effect.[1]

Contents

History of Salvadoran abortion law

El Salvador's 1956 Penal Code contained no explicit exception to its prohibition of abortion, although, under accepted principles of criminal law, one could be justified if necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman. In response to the fact that the practice of illegal abortion was common, and was a major contributor to the rate of maternal mortality, the Salvadoran government chose to expand the cases in which abortion was permitted.[1]

Under the new Penal Code of 1973, an abortion could be legally allowed under three major conditions: if the pregnant woman's life was endangered and abortion was the only means to preserve it, if her pregnancy had resulted from rape or statutory rape, or if a serious congenital disorder was detected in the fetus. An abortion caused on part of the woman's negligence was exempted from prosecution, and the government also provided reduced penalties for a woman of good standing if she had consented to an illegal abortion, or self-induced one, in the interest of protecting her reputation.[1]

Reform process and current law

Proposals to eliminate the exceptions to the general prohibition against abortion started to come before the country's Legislative Assembly in 1992. One bill would have resulted in the investigation of medical clinics suspected of providing abortion; as a result of a 1993 study, overseen by a politician affiliated with the Christian Democratic Party, several health care workers were arrested. Another proposal in 1993, which was supported by the Archbishop of San Salvador and the Say Yes to Life Foundation (a pro-life group), would have made December 28, a traditional Roman Catholic feast day known as the Day of the Innocents, the "Day of the Unborn".[2]

In 1997, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) submitted a draft bill, designed to amend the Penal Code to withdraw all grounds under which abortion was then permitted. On April 25, 1997, the Legislative Assembly voted 61 out of 84 to approve this modification to the Code.[2]

On April 20, 1998 the new Penal Code was enacted, removing the exceptions that had been instituted in 1973, including the provision for the pregnant woman's life. Under this Code, a person who performs an abortion with the woman's consent, or a woman who self-induces or consents to someone else inducing her abortion, can be imprisoned for 10 to life imprisonment. Those who perform an abortion to which the woman has not consented can be sentenced to four to ten years in jail. A physician, pharmacist, or other health care worker who provides an abortion is subject to between six to 12 years.[1]

El Salvador's current abortion law is one of the most restrictive in the world. Only four other countries — Chile, Malta, Nicaragua, and Vatican City — have similar no-exceptions policies.

El Salvador also amended its Constitution in January 1999 to recognize human life from the moment of conception.[2]

Continued practice of abortion in El Salvador

A report in 2001 revealed that, after the new Penal Code went into effect in 1998, 69 cases of illegal abortions had been prosecuted. In 23 of those cases, the women involved had been turned over to the authorities by health care workers when they arrived at the hospital seeking treatment after an unsafe abortion. Most abortions had been self-induced, through the use of clothes hangers, or by the ingestion of harmful amounts of hormonal contraception pills, antacids, or misoprostol pills.[3]

In an article published in the April 9, 2006 edition of the New York Times Magazine, writer Jack Hitt explored the effect of 1998 Penal Code.[4] The article later came under criticism when it was revealed that a woman mentioned as having been sentenced to 30 years in prison for an abortion, Carmen Climaco, had in fact been jailed for homicide after killing a full-term infant.[5]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d United Nations Population Division. (2002). Abortion Policies: A Global Review. Retrieved July 14, 2006.
  2. ^ a b c Center for Reproductive Rights. (2001). Political Process and Abortion Legislation in El Salvador. Retrieved March 3, 2007.
  3. ^ Center for Reproductive Rights. (November 30, 2001). "Severe Abortion Law in El Salvador Persecutes Women." Retrieved March 3, 2007.
  4. ^ Hitt, Jack. (April 9, 2006). "Pro-Life Nation." The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved March 3, 2007.
  5. ^ Calame, Byron. (December 31, 2006). "Truth, Justice, Abortion and the Times Magazine." The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved November 4, 2008.

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