Strong Pro-Life Victory in El Salvador

Effort to “relax” the law fails

By Marie Smith, Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues

A pro-life victory occurred in El Salvador yesterday, one of the strongest pro-life countries in the world, as anticipated votes on two bills to change the criminal code to allow exceptions to abortion failed to materialize before Congress adjourned.

A new Congress begins May 1 under control of the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) which is expected to maintain protection of the unborn from the violence of abortion.

Pro-life advocates lobbied against an international effort to add exceptions to El Salvador’s ban on abortion. According to the New York Times

“What appeared to be momentum a few weeks ago in favor of relaxing the law was defeated by an alliance of social conservatives and religious organizations who succeeded in convincing legislators in the final days that their vote could have a political cost.”

The so-called ‘momentum’ resulted in large part from media outreach and hype created by leading international pro-abortion activist organizations, including the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), Human Rights Watch, and Ipas which hoped the Salvadoran Congress would follow recent Chile’s lead and change its constitutional protection for unborn children to allow exceptions for abortion.

It did not.

Pro-life leader Julia Regina de Cardenal, the president the Yes to Life Foundation who in the past was one of those responsible for the successful effort to amend the constitution to protect children in the womb, voiced strong opposition to international interference. She also called on the Attorney for the Defense of Human Rights, Raquel Caballero, to investigate the financing of organizations in El Salvador that were leading the effort to change the law to determine the level of outside influence.

Pro-life advocates argued that the vast majority of Salvadorans defend life from conception and that “Legalizing the business of abortion is pure foreign interest not national interest #sialavida #noalaborto #abortaresmatar”

The lead sponsor of one of the bills to change the law, Deputy Johnny Wright Sol, had narrowed his bill to allow exceptions for threats to the life and health of the mother and when pregnancy of a minor is the result of rape but he realized that his bill still did not have public support. Wright stated that the challenge would be “trying to generate public opinion,” and that legislators “need to feel the pressure from society.”

But lawmakers did feel pressure as the Salvadoran business community joined civil and religious organizations and institutions in the pro-life lobby effort. The National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP) issued a statement asking the Deputies to maintain “the right to life in all its phases.” The statement stressed

“That the right to life of every human being, including the unborn, is the fundamental basis of respect for the rule of law and the system of freedoms… It would be a serious precedent that would open the doors to justify in the future doing the same in another stage of human life…We demand that the deputies not approve the reforms proposed by the abortion groups.” (online translation)

Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador called on lawmakers to reject any proposed changes, saying, “There is no right to take the life of another person”.

Earlier this month, United Nations High Commission for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein expressed pro-abortion support in a letter to legislators. According to the New York Times article he asked them to relax the abortion ban “according to international standards” and that this “would be a crucial step that would improve the protection of human rights for women and children in El Salvador and avoid future unjust suffering.”

In response to the loss, the Center for Reproductive Rights’ statement confirmed pro-life charges of international interference:

“The Center for Reproductive Rights has been working for decades to expose the consequences that El Salvador’s blanket abortion ban has on the lives of Salvadorian women, and will continue to work with Salvadoran advocates and the international community to achieve abortion reform.”

In its campaign to overturn El Salvador’s pro-life protections, the Center used what it considers to be ‘heavy hitters’ from Hollywood’- Alyssa Milano, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Amy Brenneman- to tweet the CCR message #EyesonElSalvador, and that the Salvadoran Congress must “end this law.”

Yes, the world was watching and the eyes of the world saw pro-life people in a pro-life country rally on behalf of the vulnerable unborn child and again reject the violence of abortion despite the work of international pro-abortion organizations and the United Nations. El Salvador showed that it will continue to ‘love them both’