Letter to a Congressperson

Dear President Salvador Sánchez Cerén,

Since 1998, abortion in El Salvador has been illegal under all circumstances including cases of rape, deformities in the fetus, or when the mother’s life is at risk.

What you do not understand is that this anti-abortion law is leaving thousands of women and girls suffering and dying.

Young girls who have been raped and become pregnant are forced to carry a child, whilst still being a child on their own.

Women who are too sick and might potentially die from pregnancy are forced to gamble their health for the sake of not being persecuted.

Mothers whose pregnancies failed naturally, are nonetheless still accused of homicide and are sent to jail for as much as 50 years.

I am writing this for the purpose of stressing why the Salvadorian government must make a change to it’s anti-abortion law. I understand that this country promotes itself as Pro-Life, a notion valued highly by the Roman Catholic Church. Those who hold this abortion ban to be fair and rational are under the belief that these women and girls do not have the right to take a life. However, advocating for Pro-Choice does not mean it is for abortion. But rather, it means that these woman and girls have the right to her own body. By denying Salvadorian women and girls this right, it is significantly violating their human rights as people.

57% of pregnant girls from the age of 10–19 have died from suicide. In addition to, 11% of women and girls who have sought an illegal abortion also died as a result.

The reality is, making abortion illegal will not stop it from happening all together. Abortion is still common regardless of the ban. The countries with the highest abortion rates are countries where abortion is illegal. Those with the lowest have legal, safe abortions.

The options are scarce for women and girls who are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy. For them it is either suicide, potential death, or jail. Often, women and girls will retreat to ingesting rat poison or other pesticides, thrusting knitting needles and other sharp objects into the cervix, or using a drug called misoprostol that is used to treat ulcers. According to the Ministry of Health, there were 19,290 abortions in El Salvador between 2005 and 2008. More than a quarter of them were undergone by girls under 18. However, the actual figure is likely to be much higher.

Instead of making abortion illegal, there needs to be greater access to contraception, medically accurate sexual education, and ways to make abortions legal and safe.

In 2013, a 22 year old woman named Beatriz with lupus and kydney disease, was carrying a fetus that lacked a brain and skull. Doctors told her the child would die outside the womb and that her life was in great danger. However, they did not act in fear of prosecution. As months passed without a court response, her health significantly declined. Beatriz and her advocates fought endlessly, but it wasn’t until the seventh month of her pregnancy that she was permitted an early caesarean section. The baby died hours later as predicted by the doctors.

Salvadorian authorities’ nonchalance to Beatriz’ life is quite disturbing for women who are fighting and advocating for reproductive rights. Beatriz should not have had to beg for her life, and the jurisdiction that was made is shameful and irresponsible. No women’s life should be gambled for the sake of avoiding an abortion that is signficantly deteriorating her health. Especially, when the fetus was never meant to survive anyways.

The anti-abortion law is a violation for women’s human rights and a discrimination against women.

A women’s body should not have to be a legal debate. It is her right.


Adrienne Utleg

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