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El Salvador regresses after voting against progressive abortion laws

Abortion is a topic that is highly controversial due to the way it creates clashes between conservative religious views and modern liberal views. Abortion is globally considered a debatable topic everywhere. El Salvador is no exception.

El Salvador has had a total ban on abortion for decades — with no exceptions for incest or rape. However, with the feminist movement and liberalist ideology on the rise, there has been an initiative in El Salvador to allow exceptions to the old, absolute ban on abortion.

This major step forward was halted, however, when El Salvador’s legislature voted against the propositions to allow exceptions on the complete ban. If the government had voted in support of softening the rigid abortion ban, it would have allowed doctors to perform abortions on women under certain restrictions.

Although this is not a complete removal of the strict abortion ban, it would have essentially been a major milestone in Salvadoran history for both women’s rights and liberalism. A controversial topic like this takes time and the fact that El Salvador was considering placing certain limitations on the total abortion ban was extremely progressive. Unfortunately, the law was unable to be implemented, and that is all because of the conservative and traditional thinking that is still present in the country.

It is important to note that a major reason for El Salvador’s rigid opposition on abortion lies in the major influence religion has on the country.

The Roman Catholic Church and evangelical movement have played a major role in Salvadoran history, which have resulted in a strict conservative ideology. This has undoubtedly influenced law-making and the overall structure of society.

Therefore, a major part of why this attempt to soften the ban has failed is due to the religious and conservative views that many Salvadorans possess.

In addition to that, the most powerful and impactful individuals happen to have a conservative and traditional ideology, which makes it even more difficult to bring in laws that allow women to receive abortions.

Regardless of conservative and religious beliefs in the country, it is vital to realize that laws allowing abortions are imperative and should be enforced sooner rather than later. This issue here is not about “disobeying” God or even about giving rights to women. This is more than a religious or feminist debate. Women in El Salvador are prone to being pregnant at a young age due to rape and are forced to bear children due to the lack of medical accessibility.

Salvadoran women also suffer many illnesses, some so severe that they result in death due to complications from pregnancy. Therefore, this becomes not an issue of religion or women’s rights, but a human rights issue. Women in El Salvador should neither have to bear children who resulted from a tragic event in their life nor face death or permanent medical injuries.

Salvadoran women should be able to undergo abortions because death and unwanted pregnancies from rape are easily avoidable. In addition to unwanted and complicated pregnancies, women who have endured miscarriages or stillbirths are accused of committing a crime — the crime being abortion. There is a very strict notion against “killing” the innocent newborns or fetuses in El Salvador, which hypocritically results in lashing out on the women responsible for the “homicide.” Women are essentially being punished in every way possible for being unable or not wanting to bear children.

Therefore, El Salvador’s legislature needs to put its conservative values behind it and analyze this from a fresh perspective. The lives of Salvadoran women are literally being endangered due to a stubborn ban. The government does not have to completely eliminate the ban on abortion. Instead, they should allow women to get abortions under special circumstances. This action, for now, would suffice.

Unfortunately, the legislature of El Salvador is unable to comprehend that this law is much more than officials perceive it to be. There should be no tolerance for accepting a total ban on abortion when it is urgently needed to protect women from endangering their lives. In a time like this, an uprising to impose pressure is needed.

Modern society must step up and understand that it cannot be oppressed by the powerful who are restricting their rights and freedoms. There are many in El Salvador who support applying limitations to the complete ban on abortion. At this point, if people came forward to demand even the slightest alteration to the law, it would be a major victory.

May 7, 2018

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Farah Khan


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