Things That Matter

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

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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Women Are Speaking Out About What Changed Their Minds About Abortion

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Women Are Speaking Out About What Changed Their Minds About Abortion

Mark Reinstein / Getty

With so much at stake this election year, it’s important to understand the circumstances behind some of our biggest beliefs. Currently there are little questions as to whether Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is in opposition to a person’s right to abortion. Her Catholic faith, her academic writing, and accounts from friends affirm that she has opposes the medical procedure. During a 2017 confirmation hearing for her current position as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, Coney Barret stated that she was bound to follow the Roe decision as an appeals court judge stating “Roe has been affirmed many times and survived many challenges in the court… And it’s more than 40 years old, and it’s clearly binding on all courts of appeals. And so it’s not open to me or up to me, and I would have no interest in, as a court of appeals judge, challenging that precedent.”

There’s likely no chance of changing her mind, but we were curious about how women felt.

A recent post on Reddit posed the question: What changed your mind on abortion?

Check out the answers below!

“Being pregnant (with a very much wanted baby). I’ve always been pro choice, but learning about how much can go wrong in a pregnancy made it very apparent abortion is far from a black and white issue. For example, say the fetus has some defect where it can be carried to term, but will 100% die shortly after birth. There is no reason the mother should be forced to carry out the whole pregnancy. There are so many other nuances like this that are not possible to legislate.” – kittyinparis

“having one myself. i was religious, orthodox christian once upon a time. i hate to be one of those people who didn’t understand something until i experienced it myself but it is what it was. i extremely naive and ignorant because i thought that it was as simple as “don’t get pregnant if you don’t want a kid”. but it’s really not. and you never know what someone’s story is. and even then, regardless of their situation i think if someone doesn’t want to be pregnant it’s immoral to force them to be.” – Reddit user

“Honestly? Biology class. They went over sexual reproduction step by step and I just couldn’t buy the whole “humanity begins at conception” thing anymore. Then I started reading what all those scary buzzwords meant and I got a bit pissed off. Turns out the evil “partial-birth abortions” are usually called D&Es and they’re usually only done to babies with no chance of survival or in the cases of miscarriages. That’s not evil. That’s sad. I felt lied to, in a big way.” – Moritani

“I learned more about the concepts of bodily autonomy and consent and decided that it’s wrong to force people to remain pregnant against their will.” – enerjem

“When I first learned about the concept it seemed like a terrible thing but even after just 20 minutes of research (I did a lot more clearly, but this is just to emphasize how simple this decision was) I became pro-choice at 14ish, and I’ve had that stance ever since. So I only barely changed my mind really, but I think it counts because without looking into it I could’ve gone on believing it to be morally repugnant just because of what it sounds like and because it’s a subject that’s so easy to get carried away on and not look at objectively.” – ypical_Humanoid

“Paying my own bills. It’s a lot harder to feed two mouths than one.” – Reddit user

“Having kids. Pre-kids i was very prolife. Went to rallys and everything. Would have stressed and felt guilty if i got pregnant and dont knownwhat i would have chosen though. 4 kids later and several oops…im very pro choice.” – Strikingachord

“I was pro-life until I was about 13. I figure my brain developed more and I was then better able to see the issue in a more global and expansive way and determined that pro-choice was the most ethical stance.” – searedscallops

“Meeting someone in college who had had one in the past, and who spoke openly about it. She didn’t regret it or torture herself with guilt and shame over it, but she wasn’t a depraved monster, either. She was a wonderful person who did what was best for herself and her situation.” –coffeeblossom

“Having to get one myself.” –aj4ever

“I don’t know that I was ever pro-life in the same way I don’t think I was ever really Christian. I grew up in an Evangelical Protestant denomination, and until about middle school I mostly parroted things I heard. Things like “hate the sin love the sinner” for anything from being gay to probably having an abortion.

Sometime around middle school I started questioning all of it, forming my own opinions on things. I landed on atheist pro-choice feminist and have stayed there since.” – DejaBlonde

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Stevie Nicks Says Fleetwood Mac Would Have Never Been Able To Continue If She Hadn’t Had An Abortion

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Stevie Nicks Says Fleetwood Mac Would Have Never Been Able To Continue If She Hadn’t Had An Abortion

Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty

Fleetwood Mac has been a resurgence of attention in the past few weeks thanks, in part, to an Ocean Spray loving skateboarder. Still, long before TikTokers learned about the 1960’s rock band, the five members behind indelible tunes like “Dreams” and “The Chain” were producing some of the best-selling albums in history. Throughout their careers, the singers and songwriters of the group created lyrics with political significance. As a songwriter, and vocalist, Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nick, played a big part in the political impact of the band’s songs, so it’s no wonder why she recently made the decision to open up about her decision to have an abortion during the height of her career in the late 70s.

The beloved singer-songwriter opened up about her generation’s fight for abortion rights in an interview with The Guardian.

Touching on the recent attempts to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Nicks remarked that the landmark Roe v. Wade decision would be overturned. She underlined the importance of abortion rights and how her decision to have one of her own made it possible for Fleetwood Mac to continue.

“If I had not had that abortion, I’m pretty sure there would have been no Fleetwood Mac,” Nicks told the outlet. “There’s just no way that I could have had a child then, working as hard as we worked constantly. And there were a lot of drugs, I was doing a lot of drugs … I would have had to walk away.”

During her interview, Nicks explained that it was important to her to “make people so happy” through her music but was more invested in ensuring that the group had two female singers and songwriters.

“And I knew that the music we were going to bring to the world was going to heal so many people’s hearts and make people so happy,” Nicks explained. “And I thought, ‘You know what? That’s really important. There’s not another band in the world that has two lead women singers, two lead women writers.’ That was my world’s mission.”

“Abortion rights, that was really my generation’s fight,” she went onto explain. “If President Trump wins this election and puts the judge he wants in, she will absolutely outlaw it and push women back into back-alley abortions.”

Speaking about 2020’s relentless unrest, Nicks recently explained in an interview with Variety that circumstances seem to have become worse than it was decades ago.

“Racism in the last four years is so much worse than it was. I’m 72 years old. I lived through the ‘60s. I’ve seen all this. I fought for Roe vs. Wade; that was my generation’s fight,” she said. “And I don’t want to live in a country that is so divisive. I go, like, well, if this starts over and there’s another four years of this, then I’m going — but we’re not welcome anywhere.”

“So where can I go? And I’m thinking: Oh, space,” she added. “Maybe I can talk Elon Musk into giving us a jet and letting me pick 50 people, and we’re like the arc, and someone can take us and let us live on another planet until the next four years are over.”

Earlier in October, Nicks dropped “Show them The Way” a new song inspired by the 2008 primaries between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The song, was written during the time of the primaries and recently recorded.

“I just knew that right now, with the presidential election and everything else that’s going on, that this was the time,” Nicks explained. “I hope that this song and its words will be seen as a prayer — a prayer for our country, and a prayer for the world. It’s a pretty heavy song. And I think it’s just a spectacular song.”

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