“Abortion is all about the intent to kill,” says the Latino-outreach director for National Right to Life, Raimundo Rojas. “But that was not the case here. When the child was delivered, he became a patient. He was given top-notch medical care. Had the child not been so sick, he would have survived.”
The unwillingness by abortion advocates to acknowledge a difference between an abortion, where the aim is to kill the child (“terminate the fetus,” abortion advocates might say), and an induced delivery, where every effort is made to save the child, is disturbing. In cases where pregnancy threatens the mother’s life, opponents of abortion have long recognized that treatment intended to save the mother, but which may kill the child, can be morally acceptable. The distinguishing factor is intent
. But that is a subtle moral distinction that abortion advocates in Beatriz’s case, and in others like it, are unwilling to make. And it reveals much about where their priorities lie.
“All these groups talk about is the abortion — all they care about is the abortion,” Rojas says of pro-abortion groups operating in Latin America, increasingly a battleground between pro-life groups and their pro-abortion opponents. “These are people who believe that women in the fields, in the swamps, can achieve parity with their sisters in the big cities simply by having access to abortion.” Acknowledging that Beatriz’s case was successfully resolved without recourse to abortion detracts from the storyline that women in the Third World who lack access to legal abortion are oppressed or in grave danger.
Marianne Mollmann, a senior policy adviser for Amnesty International’s International Secretariat, writing for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, claims: “Where abortion is illegal, it is equally — if not more — prevalent than in jurisdictions where it is legal. Also where abortion is illegal, it is much more likely to be unsafe.” It is well documented that the number of abortions in America increased dramatically after Roe v. Wade, and if the number of abortions has hit an all-time low in the past five years, it is not because of lowered barriers; recent years have seen states pass increasingly restrictive laws against abortion. As for Mollman’s second claim, David Reardon, director of the Elliot Institute, observes, “The basic flaw in this argument is the false assumption that a change in legal status can make safe a medical act that is inherently unsafe.” That such a thing as “safe” abortion exists is a tenuous assertion at best, as investigations in the wake of Kermit Gosnell’s “house of horrors” repeatedly show.
But Rojas says that “reproductive rights,” to use the parlance of abortion advocates, obscure more pressing issues: “These are women who worry about getting potable water.”
And as for who actually helps women, Beatriz’s case is instructive: “The medical help she received was because of the pro-life groups in El Salvador,” Rojas notes. “They got this girl into a hospital and got her treatment.” Their pro-abortion counterparts, meanwhile, “objectify and shamelessly exploit these poor women in Latin America.” And when the mother is no longer politically useful, “she will soon be forgotten.”
Moreover, Rojas adds, abortion supporters, in their push for legalization, are willing to undermine national sovereignty, regional mores, and local customs. Pro-abortion groups, the United Nations, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and a host of other organizations attempted to sway El Salvador’s authorities to overturn its laws. “Do countries have a right to their laws?” Rojas asks. “Or do these outside groups . . . have a right to decide what is or what is not unjust law?” In Beatriz’s case, he says, “national laws were protected.” It was a success not only for pro-life advocates but also for the citizens of El Salvador, who saw the rule of law in their country upheld.
Still, Rojas’s focus is not on the politics but on the people: “This isn’t a victory — there is no victory here; a baby is dead, a mother is mourning.” Yet even amid tragedy, Beatriz’s case offers a glimmer of hope to those working to protect every life in the Third World.
— Ian Tuttle is an intern at National Review.