El Salvador woman imprisoned for having a stillbirth freed after 15 years

Maira Veronica Figueroa Marroquin was serving a 30-year sentence under the country's abortion laws

Lydia Smith
Wednesday 14 March 2018 18:08
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Maira Veronica Figueroa Marroquin spent 15 years in a women's rehabilitation centre in Ilopango, El Salvador
Maira Veronica Figueroa Marroquin spent 15 years in a women's rehabilitation centre in Ilopango, El Salvador

A woman in El Salvador convicted of aggravated murder after suffering a stillbirth has been released from prison.

Maira Veronica Figueroa Marroquin, 34, served nearly 15 years of her 30-year sentence before it was commuted by the ministry of justice.

The court said the sentence, handed down under the country's draconian abortion laws, was "excessive and immoral".

El Salvador, a Roman Catholic nation, has one of the strictest abortion laws in the world and women who suffer miscarriages, stillbirths or other pregnancy-related complications are routinely suspected of having an abortion.

Terminations are banned in all circumstances, even in cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is at risk.

In the most extreme cases, women are subsequently charged with “homicide” or “aggravated homicide”, which carries a penalty of up to 50 years in prison.

Medical professionals also face prosecution if they fail to report suspected abortions.

Ms Marroquin has always maintained her innocence and says she suffered a stillbirth in a house where she was working as a housekeeper in 2003.

Although her sentence has been commuted, this does not overturn the conviction or recognise her innocence.

She is the second woman this year to have had her sentence for abortion reduced.

In February, 35-year-old Teodora Vasquez was freed from prison after spending a decade behind bars.

Ms Vasquez was arrested after suffering a stillbirth in 2007 and sentenced to 30 years for “aggravated homicide” in what Amnesty International described as a “trial marred by irregularities”.

Amnesty International’s Americas Director, Erika Guevara-Rosas, said: “While it’s a huge relief that Maira Veronica Figueroa Marroquin’s sentence was reduced and she has now been released, the real story here remains a tragedy.

“The fact that Maira has spent 15 years behind bars and had almost half of her life taken from her is a harrowing illustration of everything that is wrong with the justice system in El Salvador.

“El Salvador must decriminalise abortion without delay, and immediately and unconditionally release all women and girls imprisoned for having had an abortion or having suffered obstetric emergencies.”

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