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EL SALVADOR: Release of woman jailed for stillbirth must signal end of total abortion ban

20 Feb 2018
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Women's Rights

Teodora del Carmen Vásquez ©Amnesty International
Teodora del Carmen Vásquez ©Amnesty International

The release of a woman forced to spend a decade behind bars in El Salvador after having pregnancy-related complications resulting in stillbirth must open the door for an end to the country’s extreme anti-abortion law.

Teodora del Carmen Vásquez was freed on Thursday after a court reduced her sentence, but at least 28 women remain imprisoned under the total abortion ban, according to women’s human rights organizations in the country.

“It’s encouraging to see Teodora stepping out of jail but El Salvador is still far from fully ensuring the rights of women and girls in the country.

“Authorities in El Salvador must urgently repeal this outrageous abortion ban which has created discrimination, pain and injustice.”

In El Salvador, women who suffer pregnancy-related complications resulting in miscarriages and stillbirths are routinely suspected of having an abortion, which is banned in all circumstances. Prosecutors often charge them with ‘homicide’ or even ‘aggravated homicide’, which carries a penalty of up 50 years in prison.

Teodora suffered a stillbirth in 2007, after suddenly feeling serious pain while at work. Police arrested her as she lay in a pool of blood. She was later sentenced to 30 years for‘aggravated homicide’.

El Salvador’s Ministry of Justice eventually commuted Teodora’s sentence but did not overturn the conviction or recognize her innocence. Her lawyers intend to clear her name and seek compensation and redress for the 10 years that she spent behind bars.

Thursday 15 February 2018

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