One of the world's toughest countries when it comes to reproductive health laws might be softening its stance. A proposal introduced Thursday by El Salvador’s left wing ruling party, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, asks for abortion to be allowed in cases of rape, significant danger to the mother, or instances where the fetus is so deformed it won’t survive. The proposition needs 43 out of 84 congressional votes to pass.
“It’s a duty of legislators to give women a chance to save their lives, so that they don’t die in these circumstances,” said El Salvador’s president of Congress, Lorena Pena.
Restrictions on abortion in El Salvador are among the strictest in the entire world. Abortions are banned without exception, even when pregnancy is the result of a rape or when the mother will almost certainly die in childbirth. Women and doctors found guilty of having or performing an abortion face years in jail. Women who have miscarriages or complications are routinely suspected of abortion and charged with homicide, according to Amnesty International.
El Salvador’s stringent laws aren’t just sending women to prison- they’re killing them. In a country with scarce contraception and overwhelming poverty, pregnant women continue to seek abortions, often performing them on themselves with fatal results. Between 2005 and 2008, an estimated 19,290 abortions were performed illegally, according to the Ministry of Health. By 2011, the World Health Organization estimated that 11 percent of the women who had undergone illegal abortions had died.
Latin America as a whole is home to the strictest abortion laws anywhere, lagging far behind the rest of the world. Nicaragua and Chile both also have laws declaring abortion illegal in absolutely every instance. Only recently did Brazil and Colombia legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, or extreme danger, though it is otherwise illegal.