EL SALVADOR – Going backwards: Woman who suffered an obstetric emergency that ended her pregnancy sentenced to 30 years for aggravated homicide 

The Salvadoran Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion said in a statement on 10 May that a woman they identified as “Esme” was sentenced on 9 May, having been in pre-trial detention for two years. She was arrested when she sought medical care in a public hospital. The case is the first of its kind in the past seven years in the country, the group said. “(The ruling) is a hard blow for the road to overcome the criminalisation of obstetric emergencies that, as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has already pointed out, must be treated as public health problems,” Morena Herrera, president of the Citizen Group, said in a statement.

In the past two decades, some 181 women have been prosecuted for miscarriages and abortions, both of which have been treated as homicide. However, following campaigning by the Citizen Group and others, since 2009 the government has released 64 of them. In November 2021, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled 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 a 30-year sentence.

Esme’s lawyers said in a statement to Reuters news agency that they would appeal the decision. They noted it was the first conviction of its kind under the administration of President Nayib Bukele, who had previously said no woman should be jailed for an obstetric emergency.

There was some hope that these cases would stop and more women would be released. Just since December 2021, eight women serving long prison sentences had their sentences commuted.

SOURCES: AlJazeera, 10 May 2022 ; ABC News, by Associated Press, 10 May 2022 ; Photo, by AFP via Getty Images, in Independent, by Gino Spoccia, 12 May 2022