“On ‘Meet the Press’ in October 2004, when Tim Russert, the host, asked Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican representative then in the middle of what turned out to be a successful campaign for the U.S. Senate, to explain his position in favor of a total ban on all abortion procedures. DeMint was reluctant to answer Russert’s repeated question: Would you prosecute a woman who had an abortion? DeMint said he thought Congress should outlaw all abortions first and worry about the fallout later. ‘We’ve got to make laws first that protect life,’ he said. ‘How those laws are shaped are going to be a long debate.’
Russert refused to leave the congressman alone. ‘Who would you prosecute?’ he persisted.
Finally DeMint blurted, ‘You know, I can’t come up with all the laws as we’re sitting right here, but the question is, Are we going to protect human life with our laws?’
In El Salvador, the law is clear: the woman is a felon and must be prosecuted.”
This Sunday’s New York Times magazine has an interesting article (“Pro-Life Nation“) on abortion in El Salvador. Many countries such as Chile, Malta, and Colombia outlaw abortion, but El Salvador is one of the few who prosecutes the mother seeking the abortion as a felon. Penalties are stiff in El Salvador:
“…the abortion provider, whether a medical doctor or a back-alley practitioner, faces 6 to 12 years in prison. The woman herself can get 2 to 8 years. Anyone who helps her can get 2 to 5 years. Additionally, judges have ruled that if the fetus was viable, a charge of aggravated homicide can be brought, and the penalty for the woman can be 30 to 50 years in prison.”
Another problem which arises is that physicians in El Salvador have an obligation to both protect doctor-patient confidentiality and to accumulate evidence for the prosecution of an abortion case.
Whichever side you fall on in the debate on abortion, the article is certainly an interesting one.