Esme’s greatest fears were realized on Monday, when a judge in El Salvador sentenced her to 30 years in prison for having suffered a miscarriage. The woman had a health emergency during her pregnancy and, according to organizations that defend the right to abortion in the Central American country, she did not receive timely medical attention, but was accused of having an immediate abortion by the Prosecutor’s Office and kept for two years in prison. prevention during the judicial process. It is the first conviction of this type recorded in seven years in El Salvador and also the first during the government of Nayib Bukele, who has slammed the door on the struggle of women to achieve the legalization of abortion in his country, which has with one of the toughest laws on the subject in the world.
The conviction against Esme demonstrates the criminalization suffered by women who have abortions in El Salvador, a conservative enclave where feminist movements have been fighting for decades to reform the Penal Code. That fight suffered a serious setback last year, when the Legislative Assembly – controlled by Bukele – decided to file a proposal to reform the Penal Code presented by feminist groups in 2016, which proposed decriminalization when the life of the woman is at risk, due to rape or when malformations of the fetus are registered “that make life outside the womb unviable”. In El Salvador, between 2000 and 2014, at least 49 women have been convicted of crimes related to the criminalization of abortion and the authorities have denounced another 250 women for having an abortion.
Morena Herrera, president of the Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, stated this Monday that “the sentence that condemns Esme is a heavy blow on the road to overcoming the criminalization of obstetric emergencies that must be treated as public health problems. and guarantee of women’s rights. The activist recalled that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) issued a resolution urging the Salvadoran State not to criminalize obstetric emergencies. “We will continue to fight so that all women unjustly criminalized by these circumstances, regain their freedom and have the opportunity to remake and rebuild their life project,” said Herrera.
Karla Vaquerano, Esme’s lawyer, has accused the judge who issued the sentence against her client of acting “with partiality, favoring the version offered by the Attorney General’s Office, which was loaded with stigmas and gender stereotypes.” Vaquerano has stated that she will appeal the court decision. The lawyer has also expressed the words of her client after learning of her ruling, who has thanked the feminist movements of El Salvador for supporting her and accompanying her in the “injustice” that she lives from her.
Despite Monday’s setback, feminist groups in El Salvador have achieved important legal victories, including the release of 64 women who had been convicted of experiencing emergencies during their pregnancies, which ended with the involuntary loss of the fetus. One of those best-known cases is that of Evelyn Hernández, who in 2016 was arrested after suffering an out-of-hospital delivery in the latrine of her house. The baby died. She didn’t even know that she was pregnant. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated murder, but she was acquitted in 2020 after several years of international pressure.
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