By John-Henry Westen

EL SALVADOR, November 27, 2006 ( – On April 9, New York Times reporter Jack Hitt produced what may be called a ‘hit piece’ against the pro-life movement in El Salvador.  The piece, laden with scare tactics, culminates in his tale of woe of a woman who he says had an illegal abortion when she was 18 weeks pregnant and was sentenced to thirty years in prison.  The only problem with the story is that the woman was found guilty of strangling her full-term baby shortly after her birth.

Writing in an editorial in one of the largest papers in El Salvador, Julia Cardenal, who was interviewed for the New York Times Hitt piece, excoriates the Times for false reporting.  Referring to Hitt, Cardenal asks what the intention was of the NYT piece.  “To cause indignation in the United States so that they will pressure us to legalize abortion?,” she asks rhetorically. 

Hitt described his visit to Carmen Climaco in prison.  “I was there to see Carmen Climaco. She is now 26 years old, four years into her 30-year sentence,” wrote Hitt.  The New York Times article concludes, “She’d had a clandestine abortion at 18 weeks, not all that different from D.C.‘s, something defined as absolutely legal in the United States. It’s just that she’d had an abortion in El Salvador.”

However, court records from the case, which have been obtained by, indicate that the case was actually one of infanticide rather than illegal abortion.  While it was investigated on the suspicion of an illegal abortion, authorities found the dead baby hidden in a box wrapped in bags under the bed of Mrs. Climaco. 

Moreover, forensic examination showed that it was a full term (38-42 weeks gestation) normal delivery, and that the child was breathing at the time of birth.  The legal opinion of the cause of death was asphyxia by strangulation.

Cardenal also points out that the main source of information for Hitt came from a pro-abortion group called IPAS.  She notes that the group stands to profit financially from the legalization of abortion in El Salvador since it sells vacuum aspirators used for abortion and incomplete abortion.

Evangelina Guirola, Julia de Cardenal’s sister, who assisted in the research for the editorial responding to the New York Times, told that IPAS is running a campaign to free Carmen Climaco and bring her to the United States. 

To express concerns to the New York Times:

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Chairman & Publisher:
[email protected] 

Scott H. Heekin-Canedy, President, General Manager
[email protected]

  See the full decision of the court in the Climaco case (in Spanish):

  See the New York Times article by Jack Hitt:

See the IPAS campaign to free Climaco