Photo: Reuters/Ulises Rodriguez - Protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in San Salvador in support of Beatriz and her family
The story of a young woman in El Salvador has reignited the abortion debate in that part of the world.
The woman, 22, underwent a premature Caesarean section yesterday, after being denied an abortion by the country's Supreme Court.
The baby, which was reportedly 27 weeks old, was born with an incomplete skull and brain and died five hours after the C-section.
The woman, known only as Beatriz, has lupus and kidney problems and asked to end the pregnancy, after doctors said she could become seriously ill or die and that the fetus had such a severe birth defect, it had almost no chance of surviving.
Last week, El Salvador's Supreme Court denied her request and upheld the country's outright ban on abortions.
The Ministry of Health, a medical committee at the woman's hospital, and rights groups all supported her request for an abortion.
But in a 4-1 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the "the rights of the mother cannot take precedence over those of the unborn child or vice versa, and that there is an absolute bar to authorizing an abortion" under El Salvador's constitution.
The court ordered that Beatriz's health be closely monitored and said doctors "could proceed with interventions" if she reached a point where she was in danger.
Photo: Amnesty International via Al Jazeera
Doctors and health officials decided to go ahead with a C-section after Beatriz started having contractions on Sunday night, on the grounds it was necessary to save her life.
"At this point, the interruption of the pregnancy is no longer an abortion. It is an induced birth," said María Isabel Rodríguez, El Salvador's health minister, adding that it could be "either an abdominal or vaginal birth."
Beatriz is now in a stable condition in intensive care.
El Salvador banned all types of abortion in 1999. Any doctor or women who breaks the law faces up to 50 years in prison.
This case has reopened the abortion debate not only there but in other parts of Central and South America, as abortion is also completely banned in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Suriname and Chile.
Only Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico and Uruguay allow abortions beyond cases of rape, incest or threats to a woman's health.
Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights - a judicial branch of the Organization of American States - called on El Salvador to take action to save Beatriz's life and protect her "personal integrity and health."
Women's rights groups in El Salvador are pleased the health ministry allowed the C-section but say Beatriz had to wait too long and endured "unnecessary suffering".
Claudia Handal, a spokesperson for the anti-abortion group Red Familia, agreed with the Supreme Court's ruling.
"We're happy because as we said from the beginning, it wasn't necessary to perform an abortion, the point was to respect the baby's life and to give Beatriz the care and the right to health that she deserved," she told Reuters.
Photo: Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images - A woman takes part in the International Day of Action for the Decriminalization of Abortion last fall in San Salvador
Here are a few other statistics, as reported by the BBC.
In 2012, Uruguay's congress voted narrowly to legalize abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
In Mexico, only Mexico City has legalized abortion, during the first 12 weeks.
Brazil's senate is currently debating the legalization of terminations during the first 12 weeks.
The estimated annual number of abortions in Latin America increased slightly between 2003 and 2008, from 4.1 million to 4.4 million, but the rate per 1,000 women remained steady.
95 percent of abortions in Latin America from 1995-2008 were considered to be unsafe.
You might also want to check out this piece by Global Post entitled 'Where Is The Worst Place For Abortions?'