Salvadoran woman freed from prison after being sentenced to 30 years for losing pregnancy in accident

‘As she was mourning the heartbreaking loss of her pregnancy, Sara should have been with her family,’ says campaigner

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Tuesday 08 June 2021 17:53 BST
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Feminist collective demonstrates ahead of hearing of case of Salvadoran woman sentenced to 30 years in jail
Feminist collective demonstrates ahead of hearing of case of Salvadoran woman sentenced to 30 years in jail (AFP via Getty Images)
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A woman in El Salvador has been freed from jail after being given a 30-year sentence for having an accident which resulted in her losing her pregnancy.

El Salvador has one of the most extreme abortion bans in the world – pregnancy terminations are even illegal in cases of rape and incest, when the woman’s life is in danger, or if the foetus is severely deformed.

The Central American country routinely imprisons women who have had accidents during their pregnancy, or miscarriages, and also stillbirths by unjustly claiming they have had abortions.

Sara, whose name has not been revealed to the media to protect her identity, had a serious accident and lost her pregnancy after falling over while doing household chores back in 2012.

Campaigners say she had to go to hospital after she started bleeding from the accident but was detained by police while lying in her hospital bed due to being falsely accused of having an abortion.

Sara was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in jail for aggravated homicide and served nine years. Her case has been widely condemned by human rights organisations around the world.

Paula Avila-Guillen, executive director of the Women’s Equality Centre, said: “While we are relieved to see that Sara will finally be reunited with her family, the injustice she was submitted to is unacceptable.

“And we will not stop fighting until she is recognised innocent and the rest of the women still unjustly imprisoned are liberated. More than 17 women are still unjustly detained in El Salvador after suffering obstetric emergencies.

“Each of these cases shows the insidious consequences of the absolute criminalisation of abortion, resulting in a state that persecutes and jails women at the moment when they most need access to health and protection.”

She called for El Salvador to stop the “systematic persecution and undue incarceration of vulnerable women” who lose their pregnancies as a result of miscarriages and other obstetric emergencies.

Miscarriages and stillbirths in El Salvador are often treated as suspected abortions, which have been legally regarded as murder since 1997.

Morena Herrera, a prominent Salvadoran feminist and human rights activist, said: “Sara never deserved to be in prison. As she was mourning the heartbreaking loss of her pregnancy, Sara should have been with her family, and instead she was unjustly imprisoned for nine years.

“We will continue to demand the removal of the extreme and inhumane abortion bans that lead to these injustices in the first place. El Salvador has an obligation to protect the health and lives of its women and girls, and that must include an end to this draconian ban on abortion that fails women and leads to injustice.”

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