My Body My Rights: How Beatriz fought for her own life and inspired a global campaign

Amnesty supporters protest outside the Embassy of El Salvador, London, UK, on May 17, 2013, in support of Beatriz, a 22 year old Salvadoran woman, who was being denied an abortion. Beatriz’s life and health were in danger because of her pregnancy, and it was clear that her foetus would not survive.


When a woman named “Beatriz” stood up for her rights in April and May 2013 and demanded her human right to life, Amnesty International supporters joined forces with local and international activists. Together you echoed Beatriz’s voice, again and again, until the authorities finally listened.

Aged 22 and from El Salvador, Beatriz suffers from severe illnesses, including lupus and kidney problems. When she became pregnant, doctors told her that continuing her pregnancy could kill her. Her foetus was also anencephalic, lacking a large part of its brain and skull, and would not survive for more than a few hours after birth.

But doctors feared being prosecuted under El Salvador’s total abortion ban, and felt that their hands were tied by a law so extreme that only a handful of countries worldwide have chosen to impose similar legislation. This is because such laws pose a serious risk to women and girls.

A 14-week battle

Amnesty activists in 22 countries campaigned tirelessly alongside Beatriz, sending over 170,000 signatures to the Salvadoran government. Experts from the UN and the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights demanded that the Salvadoran government provide Beatriz with the life-saving treatment she needed.

After Beatriz had campaigned for over two months to receive the treatment she needed to stay alive, she was finally granted a caesarean section in June 2013. As doctors had predicted, the foetus lived for just a few hours after birth.

Never again

After her harrowing ordeal, Beatriz thanked people worldwide for putting pressure on the authorities. “Without you I think I wouldn’t have been able to stand being in hospital,” she wrote in a letter. “I hope my example serves so that other women won’t have to go through what I suffered.”

Back with her family, Beatriz regained strength. On December 2, 2013, she filed a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. A key part of her demand is that the state should guarantee that what happened to her is never allowed to happen to someone else.

Beatriz is also seeking redress from the government for having violated her human rights, including her rights to life and health, and to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

State violence against women

Through Amnesty’s My Body My Rights campaign, Amnesty supporters can continue to campaign to make sure that every woman and girl in El Salvador and anywhere else in the world has access to life and health-saving medical treatment when they need it. Extreme criminal laws, such as El Salvador’s total abortion ban, are cruel. These laws have discrimination at their heart and must be repealed.