Living (& Dying) in a Country Called ‘The Savior’

One reason I’d have a hard time living in El Salvador is because of its name. Would you want to live in a country called ‘The Savior’? I’ll admit it would be a fine name for a church, a hospital, or possibly a large dildo. But a modern nation?

Another reason why El Salvador doesn’t greatly appeal to me is because its government is exactly what you’d expect of a country with that name — a conservative cabal of overwhelmingly Catholic theocrats, interspersed with a few believers in more liberal “liberation theology.”

The country has, as its patron saint, the Transfigured Jesus, “the Divine Savior of the World,” and believe me: if, by accident of birth, you were a citizen of El Salvador, you’d know it. Vatican-flavored Catholicism is the law of the land, which means, among other things, that abortions are always illegal. Doesn’t matter if the woman was raped. Doesn’t matter if mother and fetus face horrific medical complications. The powers that be will courageously let them die if that’s what it takes, because hey, God (or the Savior) intends it. Que será será.


It could happen soon to a pregnant 22-year-old Salvadorian woman named Beatriz, who has lupus and kidney disease.

Doctors say Beatriz could die if she continues with the pregnancy, but have not yet treated her because they fear that if they end the pregnancy they might be prosecuted under the country’s total ban on abortion…

The country’s penal code states that anyone seeking or carrying out an abortion could be given a long prison sentence. This means both doctors and Beatriz would be at risk of imprisonment if a termination is carried out.

The medical staff is in a bind: the law gives them no power, no leeway, no discretion. There’s no Good Samaritan statute.

Beatriz’s case reminds me of that of a Brazilian nine-year-old who, in 2009, got pregnant with twins after she’d been raped by her father. Her pelvic structure and uterus weren’t developed enough to expel the babies if she’d tried to carry them to full term. Doctors decided to terminate the pregnancy and save the girl’s life.

The Catholic Church in Brazil was livid. Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho reportedly excommunicated the girl’s mother, the doctors, and other people involved in the abortion. (No word on whether the father was punished too.) The way the Church saw it, the moment the daddy’s sacred sperm combined with the girl’s divine eggs to form the Precious Miracle of Life, the prepubescent rape and incest victim was catholically obligated to carry the twins to term — and to die in the process.

Rather than rage about it all, the Monty Python team, decades ago, found a better way to deal with these absurdities (see below).

Of course, neither anger nor comic relief will save Beatriz’ life. Only the pious Salvadorian men in charge, and the Catholic authorities they serve, now hold that awesome power. May they use it wisely.