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EL SALVADOR
Women criminalized for abortions
Latinamerica Press
7/26/2017
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El Salvador is one of the seven countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where abortion is strictly prohibited.

Evelyn Hernández was 18 years old when she was raped by a gang member in April 2016, and leaving her pregnant. She was 28 weeks pregnant when she started feeling stomach pains and it was in the latrine of her house where she gave birth to a baby who died. She lost consciousness as she lay bleeding profusely; her mother rushed her to the hospital, where she was accused of having induced an abortion, and was detained.

On July 5 she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide against her newborn baby.” The judge´s decision was based on the fact that she “did not seek prenatal care”; although Hernández stated that she did not know she was pregnant, and that she attributed her periodic bleeding to her menstruation.

Hernández´s is the most recent case of criminalization of women who have an abortion, either a miscarriage or induced. El Salvador, Chile, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Suriname are the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where abortion is prohibited under any circumstance, even when the life of the mother is at risk.

Attorney Dennis Muñoz announced that he will appeal the sentence because “Evelyn has been wrongly accused. It is all circumstantial evidence, based on prejudice of what she should have done. For example, the Prosecutor´s Office says that she did not seek prenatal care, but they never describe a conduct leading to provoking the death of her newborn baby.”

Abortion in all its forms has been illegal in El Salvador since 1998 and penalized with 50 years in prison for the woman that undergoes this procedure and 12 years for the doctor who performs it. Doctors must inform the authorities if they consider that a woman had a self-induced abortion.

At the end of 2016 the governing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) presented a bill to allow abortion in cases of rape, when the victim is underage or in cases of human trafficking, when the fetus is not viable or to protect the mother´s life, but the conservative majority of Congress rejected the initiative.

Since 1998, 17 women have been sentenced because of abortions, out of which 15 remain in prison. Most of them arrived in hospitals because of complications with pregnancy or miscarriages, and were denounced by health care personnel, afraid to be also accused of practicing abortions.

Wrong legal proceeding
The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion (Agrupación Ciudadana), said in a statement published on July 13, that the investigation on the Hernández case, carried out by the Attorney General´s Office “has many gaps” and that “during the hearing and in the case file there was evidence of the poor procedure by the police members who processed the alleged crime scene,” something for which they will appeal the ruling.

“In the case of Evelyn there is reasonable doubt and lack of intentional misconduct, regarding what took place during the out-of-hospital birth that she went through; this according to the examination conducted by the Legal Medicine Institute and the doctors who performed the examinations, as it is stated in her case file,” reads the statement.

Morena Herrera, a human rights defender, said “the allegations made by the prosecutor and the reasons of the judge to condemn her, despite the lack of direct and clear evidence to support the ruling, are enough to convince the defense that these judicial system operators did not conduct a deep enough investigation in order to understand the facts and to impart justice based on these facts.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a US non-governmental organization working on reproductive health, between 2010 and 2014, 6.5 million abortions per year took place in Latin America and the Caribbean, the majority in South America (4.6 per year during that period). The annual abortion rate is estimated at 44 per each 1,000 women between 15 and 44. In Central America, the rate is of 33 per 1,000 women and in the Caribbean it is 65 per 1,000 women.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, at least 10 percent of all maternal deaths annually were due to unsafe abortion, states the Guttmacher Institute. About 760,000 women in the region are treated annually for complications from unsafe abortion. The most common complications from unsafe abortion are incomplete abortion, excessive blood loss and infection. Less common but very serious complications include septic shock, perforation of internal organs and inflammation of the peritoneum.

“Some women with untreated complications experience long-term health consequences, such as chronic pain, inflammation of the reproductive tract, pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility,” says the Guttmacher Institute. “Post abortion services in the region are often of poor quality. Common shortcomings include delays in treatment, use of inappropriate interventions, inadequate access and judgmental attitudes among clinic and hospital staff. These factors likely deter some women from obtaining needed treatment.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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Women’s organizations demand legalization of abortion in cases of rape, when the fetus is not viable and to protect the mother’s life. / Agrupación Ciudadana
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