SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – Four Salvadoran women recently freed from prison after a judicial review of their convictions for aggravated homicide following miscarriages called on Tuesday for another 12 women being prosecuted in El Salvador under similar circumstances to have their charges quashed.
The four women – Kenia, Evelyn, Karen and Elsy, who asked to be identified by their first names because they feared for their safety – were each sentenced to 30 years in prison after being convicted for aggravated homicide following miscarriages. They served seven to 13 years of their respective sentences and were all freed from December to February after authorities reviewed their cases.
They are now asking for the release of seven women who are in prison after being convicted of aggravated homicide after suffering what advocates say were obstetric emergencies. A further five women are facing similar charges.
Kenia told reporters that, when she was 17, she suffered an obstetric emergency in her third trimester after falling at home, and that despite her calls to the local emergency medical number help did not arrive in time.
She said she awoke in a hospital bed surrounded by security agents.
“They deprived me of liberty for something so unfair. I lost my youth, I lost my family,” said Kenia, who hopes to study English and cosmetology after being freed.
She called for “the freedom of all the other women deprived of their liberty for the same reason.”
Over the last 20 years El Salvador, which has banned abortion under all circumstances, including cases of rape and incest and when the woman’s health is in danger, has criminally prosecuted some 181 women who suffered obstetric emergencies, according to women’s rights organization The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion in El Salvador. Since 2009, 62 of them have been released, the group says.
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, who has previously ruled out a change to the abortion laws, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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 and died while serving her 30-year sentence.
Amnesty International said it supports efforts to free all women who have been criminalized in El Salvador for obstetric emergencies under one of the most “draconian” abortion laws in the world.
“It’s shameful the country continues to subject women and girls to a context of extreme violence, where they cannot make informed decisions about their bodies,” Erika Guevara Rosas, Amnesty’s Americas director, told Reuters.
(Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)