By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

SAN SALVADOR, December 6, 2007 ( – After nine years of adjudication, the Supreme Court of El Salvador has ruled against two plaintiffs who claimed that the nation’s 1998 law banning abortions, which does not specify exceptions of any kinds, is unconstitutional. 

However, the judges also ruled that the prohibition of abortion must be balanced against the constitutional “rights” of pregnant women according to the discretion of judges, opening the door to exceptions in the law’s application.

Those “rights”, the court hinted, might include the three exceptions contained in an earlier law that did not punish abortions in cases of rape, fetal deformities, and the life of the mother.

The suit, filed shortly after El Salvador banned all abortions in 1998, claimed that the law was unconstitutional because it did not distinguish adequately between different medical conditions that a woman might face during a pregnancy.

The plaintiffs, Roxana Ivonne Marti and Jose Fernando Marroquin, argued that to comply with the constitution, the law must acknowledge the types of exceptions delineated in the pre-1998 legislation.

While ruling against the plaintiffs specific claims, the Court did not affirm explicitly the constitutuionality of the 1998 law, a fact noted by the nation’s major newspaper, El Diario de Hoy.

Moreover, the judges stated explicitly that not all abortions were punishable under existing law, because of provisions in El Salvador’s constitution that they believe provide a conflicting set of rights held by the mother.

The ban on abortion, they wrote, “does not imply the absolute punishment of all abortion, because of the freedom of the pregnant woman and the other rights that are involved.”

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