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Teodora Vasquez in a courtroom
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/S.Melendez

UN blasts prison sentence for 'poor' El Salvadoran

December 15, 2017

A woman convicted of killing her child has received a 30-year prison sentence in El Salvador. But she has denied committing murder, saying her child was stillborn.


UN human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssel said on Friday called "appalling" a 30-year prison sentence for an El Salvadoran woman convicted of killing a child she claims was stillborn.

The case has drawn attention to the country's tough anti-abortion laws.

Read more: Half of all abortions carried out in unsafe conditions

Details of the case:

  • Teodora Vasquez was convicted in 2008 of aggravated homicide in the death of her child.
  • Prosecutors said she strangled the baby after birth.
  • Vasquez's lawyers said the baby was stillborn after she suffered health complications during the pregnancy.
  • A court sentenced her to 30 years in prison for breaking anti-abortion laws.
Activists in El Salvador have protested the case and demanded the government free other women prisoners serving 30-year prison sentences
Activists in El Salvador have protested the case and demanded the government free other women prisoners serving 30-year prison sentencesImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/S.Melendez

Human rights at stake

In a statement, UN human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell criticized the tough sentences handed down in similar cases, saying: "It is absolutely astounding, astonishing, appalling that these women are in essence being convicted of having a miscarriage, having a child stillborn."

At the sentencing, the chief prosecutor said: "The sentence does not contain errors, is well-founded and therefore I request that a review called for by the defense be declared void and that the (prison) sentence remains in place."

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director of rights watchdog Amnesty International, called for women convicted under such laws to be let out of prison, saying: "All women and girls imprisoned for having had an abortion or experiencing obstetric emergencies should be immediately and unconditionally released, and the law must be repealed without delay."

Read more: Restrictive laws do not curb number of abortions: study

@dwnews - Activists demand better access to safe abortions

How many women have been convicted: At least 159 women have received sentences ranging from 12 to 40 years in prison for breaking the country's anti-abortion laws.

Are poor women targeted: According to Throssel, not one "rich woman" has been sentenced under the anti-abortion laws.

Do other countries maintain complete bans on abortion: Besides El Salvador, there are at least seven other countries that uphold an absolute ban on interrupting pregnancies, even in instances of rape and incest, including Chile, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Surinam, Andorra and EU member state Malta.

What happens next: There are no plans to repeal the tough measures. However, the European Parliament on Thursday called for the release of "all women and girls" jailed under El Salvador's anti-abortion laws.

Read more: German doctor reignites debate after banning abortions in clinic

ls/rt (Reuters, EFE) 

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