El Salvador’s strict abortion laws coupled with an almost non-existent national sexual education curriculum have fueled one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Latin America.
At a maternity clinic outside of San Salvador, 16-year-old Rosa Esmerada Garcia tapped her feet while waiting for an appointment. She’s due any day. When the teenager began showing, she dropped out of school. She says her principal beat her. Now, she sells tortillas with her family to make extra money. Last month, her boyfriend and father of their unnamed daughter abandoned her.
In the beginning, Garcia didn’t want to keep the baby. But she grew up in a staunchly Catholic family; abortion was out of the question. She had heard about girls who used Misoprotol, a drug prescribed to treat stomach-ulcers, to end their pregnancies. But at $200, the medication was off-limits to her and many others in a country where the average monthly wage is $300.
Claudia Emera, a health worker at the clinic, says that 60 percent of girls who come to the center are teenagers, some as young as 13 years old. And of those, 20 percent actually want to be mothers. “I’m happy now that I’m having a baby,” Garcia said as she rubbed her belly, almost as big as her tiny frame. “But I don’t want her to have this life.” ?: @laurenontheroad