Another Salvadoran woman convicted of abortion released

As a result of a long struggle by feminist organizations, the Salvadoran government released a woman who was serving a 30-year prison sentence after suffering an obstetric emergency during her pregnancy. She was first accused of abortion and in the end she was prosecuted for the crime of aggravated homicide.

“We celebrate that Elsy has been released after being unjustly in jail for a little over ten years. Her erroneous 30-year sentence for aggravated homicide is over,” Morena Herrera, who heads the nonprofit Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Elsy is the fifth woman to have been released since December 2021 of the 17 Salvadorans Herrera said have been “unjustly imprisoned for suffering obstetric emergencies.”

“He was released by commutation of sentence and all his rights are restored,” he added.

Elsy was reunited with her family on Wednesday in the municipality of Yayantique, department of La Unión, in the eastern part of the country.

On June 15, 2011, Elsy, a 28-year-old single mother, was working as a domestic worker when the health emergency occurred and sought help, but instead of receiving medical attention, she was immediately arrested on suspicion of having an abortion and after a judicial process, which activists point out was full of irregularities, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide.

The feminist collective assures that Elsy did not have a defense that would monitor her rights; only with a public defender.

Herrera explained to the AP that, although the Supreme Court of Justice decided to commute Elsy’s sentence and the Ministry of Justice endorsed it, the Surveillance Court refused to proceed with her release, for which an appeal was filed and a Superior Chamber ordered his immediate release.

On December 23, the government of President Nayib Bukele released Karen, Kathy and Evelyn, and on January 17, 20221 Kenya was released after spending nine years unjustly in prison. The three women had received sentences of 30 years in prison.

In the last two decades, about 181 women who have experienced obstetric emergencies have been criminally prosecuted in El Salvador. Since 2009, with the help of the feminist collective, 61 have been freed.

In December, the campaign “We are Missing Las 17” was promoted, which aims to raise awareness about the unfair treatment received by women who suffer complications during pregnancy in El Salvador.

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The campaign published a video with several American celebrities, including América Ferrara, Mila Jovovich, Katheryn Hann, Paola Mendoza and Reshma Saujani, asking President Nayib Bukele and Salvadoran society in general to make it possible for these women to return home.

On November 30, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) declared the Salvadoran State responsible for violating the rights of a woman identified as “Manuela”, who was arrested in 2008 after being accused of inducing an abortion. The woman died in 2010 while serving a sentence, leaving her two children orphaned.

The Court considered that “Manuela” was a woman with low economic resources and illiterate. In February 2008, while living in a rural area with her family, she suffered an obstetric emergency and was treated at a public hospital in the eastern part of the country, where she was reported by the medical personnel who treated her during the emergency and was detained. . She was later sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Women’s defense organizations maintain that “Manuela” was tried without an effective judicial defense and that she was unjustly convicted. They say that she was also denied medical care to deal with cancer while she was in jail.

Activists have pointed out that, in El Salvador, the vast majority of prosecuted women are housewives, domestic workers, students, workers or salespeople.

El Salvador is one of four countries in Latin America that prohibits abortion without exception, along with Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

El Salvador is uncompromising with women facing an unwanted pregnancy. Regardless of whether their lives are in danger or if they are girls who are victims of rape, the law punishes it.

Salvadoran law criminalizes all forms of abortion, including therapeutic abortion, and punishes women as well as doctors. If found guilty, the sentences range from two to eight years. However, in many cases the crime changes to aggravated homicide due to the relationship of the victim with the perpetrator and women can be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

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