A teenage rape victim from El Salvador has been sentenced to 30 years in jail for aggravated homicide. Evelyn Beatriz Hernández Cruz was 18 and in high school when she was raped and became pregnant. Hernández Cruz says she didn’t know she was pregnant, and after she delivered a stillborn baby in the bathroom unexpectedly, Salvadoran authorities arrested her for aggravated homicide. El Salvador has some of the most strict and complicated abortion laws in the world.
According to The Guardian, Hernández Cruz’s pregnancy was the result of repeated rapes from a gang member in a forced sexual relationship. The now-19-year-old was convicted because she failed to seek prenatal care for the fetus, reported The Guardian.
Hernández’ story is one in a larger narrative of women and girls who have gotten pregnant, had a miscarriage, and been sentenced to 30+ years in jail for aggravated homicide.
El Salvador’s strict abortion laws have led to authorities to arrest, charge, and convict numerous women to long sentences after suffering miscarriages.
“This is really complicated as the miscarriage is not a crime as such,” Dennis Muñoz, a defense attorney who represented Hernández, told National Geographic about El Salvador’s anti-abortion laws. “Despite it not being technically penalized, it is in fact penalized in practice.”
Defense attorney Dennis Muñoz told National Geographic that in El Salvador, women are immediately presumed guilty in the case of miscarriages and stillbirths.
According to Amnesty International, El Salvador has some of the most strict abortion laws in the world. In 1998, the government passed a total ban on abortion under any circumstances with jail sentences as the punishment for breaking that law. A woman who has a miscarriage and is found guilty of aggravated homicide can be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison. Amnesty International reports that because of the restrictive abortion laws, many women and girls in El Salvador take matters into their own hands by “ingesting rat poison or other pesticides, and thrusting knitting needles, pieces of wood and other sharp objects into the cervix, and the use of the ulcer treatment drug misoprostol.” Eleven percent of women who perform these abortions end up dying.
Earlier this year, a bill to decriminalize abortion was considered. However, nothing has come of the bill.
In April of this year, Newsweek reported that a bill was being considered to finally reverse the decades-long total criminalization of abortion. As of the time of this article, the bill had not made progress in Salvadoran politics and the law of the land continues to be a total ban on all abortions.