Social Issues

Salvadorans freed after abortion convictions call for other women’s release

San Salvador, Feb 22 (EFE).- Four women who were recently freed after being sentenced to long prison terms in El Salvador for alleged abortion on Tuesday demanded the release of at least eight other women who remain behind bars after suffering obstetric emergencies.

Seven Salvadoran women currently in prison were convicted under strict laws that outlaw that procedure in all circumstances, according to Agrupacion Ciudadana, a Salvadoran organization that is working to change existing legislation on abortion.

The group says one other female suspect has been jailed pending the outcome of her criminal proceedings and four others have been granted pre-trial release.

Kenia, who suffered an obstetric emergency (health problems that are life-threatening for pregnant women and may arise at any time during pregnancy) at age 17 and spent nine years in prison, called at a press conference for Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele to release “all the other (women) who have been deprived of their freedom for this same reason.”

“Making it possible for them to also be reunited with their families this year,” said the young woman, who also denounced irregularities in the criminal proceedings that led to her aggravated homicide conviction.

Kenia said that after she had suffered an accident and woken up in a hospital a policeman told her he would make sure “that I’d rot in prison.”

That law enforcement officer later was the key witness at her trial, she added.

Evelyn, who was imprisoned for more than 13 years, said the various attorneys assigned to represent her in different court hearings “were unable to defend me because they didn’t know my case.”

She added that Salvadoran legislation that bans abortion even in the case of rape, incest or when a mother’s life is in danger “criminalized us for being women” and stressed that she and the other women recently released and the others now behind bars “are innocent.”

“I’m calling for their freedom. It’s very difficult to be in prison for something we didn’t do. We’re innocent. They also deserve an opportunity to go home to their families,” Evelyn said.

Around 181 women who experienced obstetric emergencies “have been prosecuted for abortion or aggravated homicide in El Salvador” over the past two decades, according to Agrupacion Ciudadana. Since 2009, a total of 62 women have been released from prison.

Pregnant women in El Salvador who suffer complications that lead to miscarriages and stillbirths are commonly suspected of having had an abortion and prosecuted on charges of aggravated homicide, which is punishable by 30 years in prison. EFE


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