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Rule of LawEl Salvador

El Salvador jails woman accused of abortion for 30 years

May 11, 2022

A court in El Salvador has sentenced a woman to 30 years in prison because she suffered an obstetric emergency that ended her pregnancy. Abortions are banned in the Central American country.

Women march with a pro-choice banner in San Salvador. : © Camilo Freedman/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire
Many women in El Salvador have been sentenced for apparent miscarriagesImage: Camilo Freedman/ZUMAPRESS/picture alliance

A court in El Salvador has jailed a woman for 30 years because she suffered an obstetric emergency that resulted in the end of her pregnancy, according to an NGO that was assisting in her defense.

The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion denounced the sentence and said it planned to appeal the ruling. 

The sentence, which was delivered Monday, could not be immediately confirmed, since courts were closed on Tuesday for Mother's Day. 

"The judge acted with partiality, giving greater weight to the version offered by the Attorney General's Office, which was loaded with stigmas and gender stereotypes," the NGO said in a statement. It was the first case of its kind in the past seven years, the group added.

The woman, who has been identified only as "Esme" by the group, was kept in pre-trial detention for two years following her arrest when she sought medical care in a public hospital.

She already has a 7-year-old daughter. 

Miscarriages of justice

Abortion in El Salvador

El Salvador has a total ban on abortion, including in cases where a woman has been raped or her health is in danger. Several women have been arrested and sentenced to prison after suffering apparent miscarriages that were reported to authorities.

In the past two decades, about 180 women have been prosecuted. Since 2009, the government has released 64 of them. Since December 2021, eight women serving long prison sentences have had those sentences commuted.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in November that El Salvador had violated the rights of a woman identified as Manuela who was sent to prison for breaching the abortion laws. She died while serving her 30-year sentence.

Abortion in Europe scorned, concealed, prohibited

tg/nm (AP, EFE, Reuters)