As the fight over the right to abortion continues to unfold in the U.S., the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held a landmark hearing on abortion rights in El Salvador. In Beatriz v. El Salvador, the plaintiffs in this case assert that El Salvador committed human rights violations in 2013 against "Beatriz” by denying her abortion care for an unviable pregnancy. Leading social scientists at ANSIRH filed an amicus brief urging the court to consider the safety of abortion and the harmful impacts of abortion denial when ruling on this case.
This will be the first time that the IACHR Court fully addresses the issue of abortion. This case highlights the situation of women in the Salvadoran public health system who face an absolute prohibition of abortion, even in circumstances where their life and health are in danger – 23 other nations similarly prohibit abortion in all circumstances.
In assessing the extensive evidence relevant to the case of Beatriz v. El Salvador, we are confident in concluding that there is little scientific or medical controversy about abortion safety and there are clear harms from denying access to safe, legal abortion services. We write to share relevant findings from research leading to three key conclusions: 1) Abortion is safe, with no significant short- or long-term effects on physical health; 2) Abortion does not cause negative mental health or emotional consequences; and 3) It is being denied a wanted abortion that causes lasting harms to pregnant people’s physical health and their financial, familial, and social wellbeing.
In addition to summarizing the robust body of scientific evidence on these points, in this brief we also aim to demonstrate the challenges of conducting high-quality research on this topic, and to highlight the importance of relying on the most rigorous studies for drawing conclusions upon which to base policy. We urge the Court to take this evidence and these considerations into account when ruling on this case.