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El Salvador’s ‘Total Abortion Ban’ Is Landing Women Who Have Accidentally Miscarried in Jail

Photo via Getty Images

The right for a woman to decide what to do with her body is a controversial subject in much of Latin America. Some countries, like Argentina, are slowly becoming less conservative in their approach to reproductive rights. Other countries–like El Salvador–have stayed the same.

El Salvador is a country that has some of the most prohibitive anti-abortion laws in the world.

Along with Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, El Salvador is one of the Latin American countries that does not permit abortion under any circumstances. El Salvador has a “total abortion ban” policy.

Next week, El Salvador’s total abortion ban will be analyzed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Since 1998, 140 women have gone to jail for illegally terminating their pregnancies in El Salvador. Many of these women say that they are innocent of the charges.

One of the most famous of such cases is the case of a woman that simply goes by “Manuela”.

In 2008, Manuela went to jail for illegally terminating her pregnancy. When Manuela was seven months pregnant, she went to the hospital because she was suffering from a miscarriage.

When the 33-year-old mother of two was receiving medical care, she was accused of having an abortion. She was convicted of aggravated homicide and sentenced to 30 years in prison. After 2 years, Manuela died behind bars. She had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma–a disease that had caused her to miscarry her pregnancy.

“Manuela was the victim of a State that does not protect the life and health of women, that discriminates and criminalizes them for having natural complications of pregnancy and does not provide guarantees to protect the confidentiality between medical staff and patients,” said Catalina Martínez Coral, the regional Latin American director at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement.

Next week, a woman named Sara will appear in court for allegedly terminating her pregnancy in 2012.

But Sara’s lawyers said she did not intentionally end her pregnancy. They say she accidentally miscarried after she slipped and fell doing dishes. At the hospital, Police detained Sara. Sara is now in prison with a 30 year sentence.

“Sara’s hearing offers a new opportunity to do right by her and the hundreds of women who have been forced to mourn the loss of their pregnancy from a prison cell,” writes SKDK communications director Tania Mercado.

Like Mercado, Catalina Martínez Coral believes these upcoming trials are a chance for El Salvador to change its draconian abortion laws.

“We want El Salvador to assume the international responsibility it has evaded for years despite the repeated calls from multiple human rights organizations to review the legislation that causes this unjust criminalization of women,” she said.

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Katherine Díaz, Salvadorian Surfing Star and Olympic Hopeful, Died After Being Struck By Lightening

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Katherine Díaz, Salvadorian Surfing Star and Olympic Hopeful, Died After Being Struck By Lightening

Photo via isasurfing/Instagram

A tragedy born from a freak accident is rocking El Salvador’s athletic community today. On Friday, El Salvador surfing star and Olympic hopeful, Katherine Diaz, died after being struck by lightening. She was training for an Olympic qualifier.

According to reports, lightning struck and killed 22-year-old Katherine Díaz right after she entered the water at El Tunco beach.

“Katherine came over to hug her [friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard,” her uncle Beto Dia “She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too, the board threw me back. Katherine died instantly.”

According to NBC News, onlookers pulled Katherine Diaz to the shore and attempted to revive her, but by that time, it was too late.

Her family, of course, is mourning the loss of their loved one. “We were very close,” her sister, Erika Diaz said to a local publication. “Katherine was a girl full of energy, with a free spirit who made everyday feel worthwhile. Unfortunately, she left us.” But Erika said she is glad that her sister passed while doing what she loved the most–surfing.

Katherine Díaz had dedicated her life to the complicated and rewarding sport of surfing.

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A post shared by KATHERINE DIAZ (@katherinecook7)

Katherine Díaz Hernández had been surfing since she was 9-years-old. The 22-year-old was training to qualify for the 2021 Summer Olympics–the first time surfing would ever appear at the international games.

El Salvador’s surfing federation, FESASURF, released a statement lauding Díaz for her talent. “Katherine was a girl very passionate about sports, she was very motivated and happy for the event that was approaching.”

The International Surfing Association posted a tribute to Diaz on their Instagram page.

“Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport,” they wrote. “She excelled at the international competition level, representing her country with pride at both the ISA World Surfing Games and ISA World Junior Surfing Championship.”

“We send our heartfelt condolences to Katherine’s family, the surfers of El Salvador, and to all those in the international surfing community whose lives she touched. We will never forget you.”

El Salvador’s surfing community has planned a “paddle-out” ceremony that is traditional in the death of a surfer.

According to Surfer Today, a paddle-out ceremony is “an ocean-based ceremony consisting of a mix of spiritual, metaphysical, and ritual actions that acknowledge, remember, and celebrate a fallen peer.”

“It’s a symbolic rite of passage that showcases traces of connection and separation, departure, and continuity.”

Katherine Díaz’s funeral services were on Saturday morning. The paddle-out ceremony will be held on Tuesday.

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The Chilean Government Gave Out Defective Birth Control Pills Which Caused Dozens of Unplanned Pregnancies

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The Chilean Government Gave Out Defective Birth Control Pills Which Caused Dozens of Unplanned Pregnancies

Photo via Getty Images

The fight for women’s right to choose what to do with their bodies is a fight that continues to rage on throughout the world. That fight is especially intense in Latin American countries, where cultural attitudes towards sex and abortion are highly influenced by Roman Catholic ideals.

Recently, women in Chile were provided defective birth control pills from the government. The faulty contraceptives have resulted in at least 140 unplanned pregnancies.

The incident happened when the Chilean government–which is the primary method that women get birth control pills–distributed pill packs that were packaged incorrectly. The pill packs–which went by the name of Anulette CD–had placebo (“sugar pills”) in the place of the active pills.

Reproductive health advocates began hearing rumors that the government had issued defective birth control pills, so they did some investigating. One reproductive rights organization, Corporacion Miles, requested a formal inquiry into the rumors. Because of the inquiry, 276,890 packets of birth control pills were quietly recalled in August of last year.

These unplanned pregnancies are especially challenging because Chile, like many Latin American countries, have very restrictive abortion laws.

Unless a woman has been sexually assaulted or her life is in danger, it is hard to get an abortion in Chile. Because of these laws, women have little means to deal with these unplanned pregnancies. Either that, or they can opt for a clandestine abortion, where their lives could potentially be put at risk.

The Chilean women who became pregnant, after taking every precaution to prevent such a thing from happening, are scared. Many of them, already feeling strained from the emotional and financial strains of the pandemic, don’t feel ready to have a child.

“I don’t think people grasp how hard it is to be a mother for a woman who is not ready,” said Marlisett Guisel Rain Rain, a mother of three who became pregnant with her fourth child after taking the defective birth control pills. “You have to rebuild yourself completely.”

Both the government and the contraceptive manufacturer are pointing fingers at each other for who is to take the blame.

The pill manufacturers are claiming that they have had “no reports” of unplanned pregnancies after taking their pills. But they also insist that if the pills were defective, healthcare workers should have noticed the problem before distributing them. In response, the Chilean government is fining the manufacturer $92,000 due to “quality problems”.

“Women were trusting the pills they were given by state-run clinics,” said said Anita Peña Saavedra, director of Corporacion Miles. “The fault is not only with the laboratory but also with the government. They are both responsible.”

The only bright side that reproductive rights activists see is that this debacle might inspire Chileans to reconsider the countries strict anti-abortion laws come November, when the country will vote on a new government and new constitution.

“This is a very emblematic case to show why having [three legal exceptions] is just not enough and why it is always important to have access to free and legal abortion,” said Paula Avila, a human rights lawyer and head of the U.S.-based Women’s Equality Center.

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