A court in El Salvador has sentenced a woman to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide after alleging that she had an abortion, which is illegal in all cases in the highly-religious country.
Activists say the woman, identified only as “Esme”, sought medical treatment in connection with her pregnancy and later miscarried. They warn that the case forebodes what could come for the US, where the supreme court is expected to overturn the Roe v Wade court ruling which effectively legalized abortion in 1973.
“Esme’s sentencing is a devastating step backward for the progress that has been made in the unlawful criminalization of women suffering obstetric emergencies in El Salvador,” said Paula Avila-Guillen, executive director of the Women’s Equality Center.
“Everyone in the US should have their eyes on El Salvador right now to understand exactly what a future without Roe entails.”
Latin America is known for its strict anti-abortion laws, but El Salvador goes further even than the majority of its neighbors, banning abortion in cases of rape and incest as well as when the health of mother or child is at risk. Campaigners say that more than 180 women have been jailed for murder over the past two decades, either after having an abortion or experiencing medical issues that led to the loss of their baby.
Morena Herrera, the president of The Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion called the sentence “a heavy blow”, and called for miscarriages to be treated as a public health issue rather than a criminal matter.
“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 lives,” she said.