Prosecutors Are Preparing To Take Evelyn Hernandez To Court For The Third Time Because Of A Miscarriage
Evelyn Beatríz Hernández is just 21 years old and seems to be proving that El Salvador will jail women for simply being women. In 2016, Hernández was raped by a gang member and was afraid to tell anyone about it after he made death threats against her and her family for speaking out. Months later, she fainted while using the bathroom, unknowingly having miscarried during the process. One year later, El Salvador charged her for murdering her newborn child and sentenced her to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide. After public outcry, the Supreme Court annulled the conviction and freed her after spending nearly 3 years in prison, citing lack of evidence.
It ordered a retrial with a new judge. That judge acquitted her in August. But prosecutors won’t rest until they see Hernández go to prison. Federal prosecutors are appealing the judge’s ruling, which means Hernández may have to endure another court trial.
Evelyn Hernández was just 18 years old at the time of her rape and miscarriage.
She was still a student in high school when she was raped in 2016. She had no idea she was pregnant when she went to her rural home’s outhouse with stomach pains and bleeding. That’s when she fainted. Her mom found her on the outhouse floor, drenched in blood and took her to the hospital. Doctors found signs that she had delivered a baby, but not even an awareness of a baby.
El Salvador has an absolute ban on abortion which has led to the harsh criminalization of women and their bodies.
Doctors are required to call authorities. Hours later, local officials found a newborn dead in the family’s septic tank. Hernández was immediately accused and charged with inducing abortion and aggravated homicide. El Salvador imposed a total ban on abortions in 1998, no matter if the woman is raped, or if the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother’s life.
Hernández was found guilty by a female judge, who sentenced her for 30 years on a murder conviction.
The three years that follow her initial traumatic rape have been a nightmare for the young woman. In July 2017, a female judge ruled that Hernández had induced abortion. Thankfully, civil rights activists around the world called on El Salvador to reexamine the case. Her lawyers cited forensic tests that showed the baby more likely died of natural causes and was stillborn, prompting a re-trial. The Supreme Court annulled the original conviction on September 26, 2018, and ordered a re-trial.
Six months later, she walked out of Ilopango Women’s Prison, met by a cheering crowd of mujeres carrying “Justice for Evelyn” banners.
“I thank all of you who have supported me and thank everyone from around the world who has shown support,” Evelyn told the press and her supporters. “It was tough to be locked up, especially when I was innocent. There are others who are still locked up and I hope they are freed soon.”
Last month, she faced what many people thought would be her last trial, during which prosecutors blamed her for the miscarriage.
The American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights reported that the federal prosecutor argued that she was “liable for aggravated homicide by omission: in other words, that Ms. Hernandez had failed to fulfill the duty of care that she owed her child.” Hernández allegedly had “knowingly neglected to seek appropriate prenatal services during her pregnancy.”
Still, on August 19, 21-year-old Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz was acquitted after a judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict her of the alleged crime she had been accused of years prior. She stood on the steps of the courthouse after her acquittal and told the world, “Thank God, justice had been done. My future is to continue studying and to move forward with my goals. I am happy.”
El Salvador continues to prosecute Hernández because that’s what El Salvador does to women.
According to Buzzfeed News, Hernández is just one of the dozens of women who are serving prison time for murder charges of their infants. If women are even suspected of abortion, they can be prosecuted as criminals in El Salvador. Even seeking the procedure itself, without actually benefitting from it, is tantamount to the crime in El Salvador. It is one of 16 countries in the world with such strict regulations on women’s bodies, including Egypt, Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua, among others.
Human rights activists are disturbed by the level of resources the Salvadoran government is spending on convicting women. Hernández has been found innocent twice, now, and may be looking at another trial.