Things That Matter

She Didn’t Know Her Rape Led To A Pregnancy. Now, Her Stillbirth Has Landed Her A 30-Year Jail Sentence In El Salvador

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.

(H/T: The Guardian)


READ: Latina Texans Have Limited Access to Abortion Thanks to This Law

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Golden State Killer Confesses To Rape And Murder, After Families Have Been Waiting For Decades

Things That Matter

Golden State Killer Confesses To Rape And Murder, After Families Have Been Waiting For Decades

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Although his crime spree took place more than thirty years ago, the Golden State Killer has only recently been held accountable for the unspeakable crimes he committed up and down the state of California.

Thanks to advancements in DNA testing, police found a suspect and this week the Golden State Killer confessed to dozens of crimes committed from Sacramento to San Diego.

His victim’s families have celebrated the move as a first step on the path towards justice for their loved ones.

One of California’s most prolific killers has pleased guilty to his crimes and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The Golden State Killer terrorized California for more than a decade, before his trail went cold. After being arrested in 2018 thanks to advancements in DNA testing, Joseph DeAngelo was charged with several crimes (including burglaries and murders) and named as the Golden State Killer.

Since his arrest, police have been building a case against him and this week charged him with additional crimes, for which he has pled guilty to on all counts. He pled guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder and special circumstances – including murder committed during burglaries and rapes -– as well as 13 counts of kidnapping, and he acknowledged more than 50 rapes he was not charged for because of California’s statute of limitations.

DeAngelo will be sentenced in August, and will kiley serve 11 consevutive life terms without the possibility of parole. According to Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Amy Holliday, he agreed to plead guilty to all charges to avoid the death penalty.

With his guilty plea, victim’s families will finally be able to face him in court and seek justice.

Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Some of the Golden State Killer’s victims, were raped or murdered as far back as 1974. So their families have been waiting for justice for decades.

After dozens of false leads and dead ends, the case was followed up on after advancements in DNA. And now, the Golden State Killer has been identified and charged with the crimes that have left dozens of families in untold pain.

The plea means that his victims can give their impact statements starting August 17 — much quicker than if he had gone to trial in a prosecution that the six district attorneys involved said might have taken as long as a decade.

“Today’s court proceeding brings us one step closer to ending the horrific saga of Joseph DeAngelo and his decades long crime spree,” Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said Monday in a news release. “In this case justice did not move swiftly, it was a long time coming. However, our victims remained steadfast and brave throughout this entire process.”

The Golden State Killer had a long crime spree and dozens of victims.

Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Although DeAngelo was just arrested in 2018, his crimes date back to 1974. He has admitted to burglaries, rapes, and murders ranging from northern to Southern California. He earned nicknames such as the Visalia Ransacker, the Diamond Knot Killer, the Original Night Stalker and the East Area Rapist. Officials only later realized the crimes were all the work of one man.

The former police officer, Vietnam War veteran and auto mechanic was arrested in April 2018 after police tracked him down by matching his DNA with a genealogy website.

Investigators created a family tree dating back to the 1800s in order to identify him as a suspect. Detectives followed him and collected a piece of rubbish he had thrown away, finding the same DNA recovered from several crime scenes.

Now, the Golden State Killer’s gripping crime story will be told in a six-part HBO series.

Just one day before DeAngelo pled guilty to all charges, HBO debuted a miniseries detailing his crimes and the victim’s stories. The series, based on author and researcher Michelle McNamara‘s own investigation, combines archives of footage and police files, as well as exclusive new interviews with detectives, survivors and relatives of DeAngelo.

McNamara remained focused on the victims of the crimes throughout her process, and she earned the right to “walk off with 37 boxes of Golden State Killer evidence, according to Assistant Orange County Public Defender Scott Sanders.

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Evelyn Hernandez – A Rape Survivor – Was Imprisoned Under Anti-Abortion Laws, Now She’s A Free Woman

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Evelyn Hernandez – A Rape Survivor – Was Imprisoned Under Anti-Abortion Laws, Now She’s A Free Woman

Oscar Rivera / Getty Images

It’s no secret that countries across Latin America have some of the strictest abortion laws in the world – El Salvador is no exception. In fact, it’s the only known country that that regularly prosecutes and imprisons women as a result of its abortion ban – even in cases where the women suffered  miscarriages, stillbirths and other obstetric emergencies.

But over the last decade, activists, lawyers, and international women’s groups have rallied behind Salvadoran women imprisoned for “obstetric emergencies.” Since 2009, more than 38 women have been released from jail, 16 remain incarcerated, and at least three — including Evelyn Hernandez — are in the middle of legal proceedings.

Evelyn Hernandez, of El Salvador, has been found innocent after a retrial.

Evelyn Hernandez’s case had made international headlines when she was tried for homicide charges after experiencing a stillbirth – when she didn’t even know she was pregnant.

But after years of maintains her innocence of any wrongdoing, Hernandez has finally been found innocent by El Salvador’s judicial system.

“I was made the victim of a justice system that is anything but just. I know that there are countless other women who have experienced the same in a country where miscarriages are still considered a crime and reproductive rights are nonexistent. We must stand up and demand that the Salvadoran government release all the remaining women who have been wrongfully put behind bars like me. The fight does not end here,” Hernandez said after the trial.

Her defense attorney added in a tweet, “I am about to explode with happiness.”

Amnesty International described the verdict as a “resounding victory for the rights of women in El Salvador” and called on the government to “end the shameful and discriminatory practice of criminalizing women”.

El Salvador has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world.

Since 1998, El Salvador has had a complete and total ban on abortion – with zero exceptions – including in cases where the woman’s life is at risk for the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. In fact, El Salavador is the only known country that regularly prosecutes and imprisons women as a result of its abortion ban – even in cases where the women suffered  miscarriages, stillbirths and other obstetric emergencies.

Typically, women found guilty face between two and eight years in jail but in many cases – as was the case with Evelyn – charges are increased to aggravate homicide, which carries a minimum sentence of 30 years.

Today, more than 20 women are in prison under trumped up charges of manslaughter, homicide, or aggravated homicide after being accused of having an abortion. In total, at least 50 women have been imprisoned.

Evelyn’s case had been in the headlines for years after repeated appeals by prosecutors.

Evelyn’s case started when she was a victim of sexual violence in her community – having allegedly been raped by a gang member at 18-years-old.

She was first arrested after the body of her baby was found on the property of her rural home. Evelyn says she had experienced severe stomach pains and bleeding and went to the toilet, where she passed out. It’s here where her baby was stillborn. But in 2017, a judge ruled that Evelyn knew she was pregnant and tried to conceal the baby’s birth. She was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison, of which she has already served 33 months.

In July 2017, the judge ruled that Ms Hernández knew she was pregnant and found her guilty. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison of which she has already served 33 months.

Evelyn’s lawyers appealed the judge’s decision. They said forensic tests showed that the baby had died of meconium aspiration, inhaling his own stool. This can happen while the baby is still in the uterus, during delivery or immediately after birth. 

The lawyers said the test proved that Evelyn had not tried to abort the baby but that it had died of natural causes. “There is no crime,” defense lawyer Bertha María Deleón said during oral arguments. In 2019, the country’s Supreme Court agreed and annulled Evelyn’s 2017 conviction and ordered a retrial with a new judge.

Evelyn’s case could have a major impact on several other women across the country accused of similar crimes.

Credit: Oscar Rivera / Getty Images

According to human rights experts, there are at least 17 other women who have been jailed under the country’s strict abortion laws. Campaigners have successfully managed to free about 30 other women over the last decade  – after winning hard-fought court cases.

Evelyn’s retrial is the first case to be heard under new President Nayib Bukele, who took office in June, and women’s groups are hoping he could usher in a more lenient stance on the issue. 

President Bukele has said that he opposes abortion but has expressed sympathy with women suffering miscarriages who then come under suspicion.

“If a poor woman suffers a miscarriage, she’s immediately suspected of having had an abortion. That’s where the issue of social inequality comes into play,” he said while he was running for president.

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