El Salvador’s ‘Total Abortion Ban’ Is Landing Women Who Have Accidentally Miscarried in Jail
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Update July 7, 2021
Sara Rogel is one of the numerous women in El Salvador who have faced severe prison sentences because of the country’s abortion laws. Women are spending decades in prison for miscarriages that the courts continue to rule violate some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world. Now, a free woman, she is looking to get her life back.
After 10 years, Sara Rogel is out of prison in El Salvador after allegedly receiving an abortion.
Rogel was originally sentenced to 30 years in prison after she showed up to the hospital bleeding, which made some believe it was a miscarriage. The 2012 hospital visit turned into a legal battle and criminal conviction of Rogel that put her behind bars for violating the Central American country’s abortion laws.
In an interview with Reuters, Rogel talks about her plans now that she is freed from prison. Her main focus is helping others in prison.
“I seek to better myself; that is what I have planned,” Rogel told Reuters. “To finish my studies and have a job so I can have a good family because life outside is very difficult.”
She added: “(Prison) is not an easy place. I know what I have experienced in that place. I know that my companions who are there are suffering, but I want to help them. They are struggling; that’s why I want to help them so that one day they can feel the peace of mind that I have felt.”
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.
On March 10 & 11, The Center for Reproductive Rights (@ReproRights) will give oral arguments on Manuela’s case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.— Kate Smith (@byKateSmith) March 5, 2021
If the international court sides with Manuela, El Salvador could be barred from prosecuting women who say they miscarried
“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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