EL SALVADOR – Interview with Sara García Gross: « In El Salvador, when a woman falls pregnant, she loses her right to life. »

EL SALVADOR – Interview with Sara García Gross: « In El Salvador, when a woman falls pregnant, she loses her right to life. »

June 22, 2018
by International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

El Salvador is ruled by what began as a leftist party and over the years has passed a series of policies in support of women’s rights. But on the subject of abortion there has always been silence. Although they were the first party to introduce an abortion law reform bill after 20 years in power, they then postponed the debate with the excuse of introducing other priority issues, which shows that fundamentalist pressure on them is strong and influential. Among the fundamentalists, there is not only the Catholic Church but also groups related to Opus Dei, who have organised campaigns to discredit and disparage our work on sexual and reproductive rights.

Pope John Paul II visited El Salvador; he was totally anti-abortion. Streets bear his name. Currently, there is a process of canonisation of Bishop Romero, which had already been declared a saint by the people, so it was not even necessary for the church to recognise him. The fundamentalist movement takes advantage of his popularity to promote anti-abortion messages.

Continued: http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/el-salvador-interview-with-sara-garcia-gross-in-el-salvador-when-a-woman-falls-pregnant-she-loses-her-right-to-life/

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Mothers caught up in El Salvador’s abortion ban put focus on families

Mothers caught up in El Salvador's abortion ban put focus on families

The Latin American country has one of the world's strictest laws against abortion, and dozens of women say they were wrongly jailed after suffering miscarriages. As El Salvador debates loosening the ban, they're trying to change the conversation.

Catarina Fernandes Martins, Correspondent
August 3, 2017

San Salvador—Mirna Ramírez was arrested for attempting to murder her daughter on the day she was born.

Ms. Ramírez was seven months pregnant when she suddenly went into labor at home, where she delivered her daughter. Neighbors rushed to help and arrived right after the birth. Afterward, though, saying they suspected she had been trying to abort the baby, they reported her to authorities. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Continued at source: Christian Science Monitor: https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2017/0803/Mothers-caught-up-in-El-Salvador-s-abortion-ban-put-focus-on-families

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El Salvador: What It’s Like To Be The World’s First Abortion Refugee

What It's Like To Be The World's First Abortion Refugee

In 2011, María Teresa Rivera was sentenced to 40 years in prison for 'aggravated homicide' following a miscarriage in El Salvador. Five years later, free and living in Sweden, she finally speaks out about the horrific ordeals women across her home country are facing when it comes to abortion, homicide and the law.

By Katie O'Malley
Aug 1, 2017

The pain, both physical and psychological, of going through a miscarriage, is an experience no-one should have to endure.

However, little did 33-year-old María Teresa Rivera know that the death of her embryo would also be compounded by the loss of her freedom.

Continued at source: Elle: http://www.elleuk.com/life-and-culture/culture/longform/a37441/first-abortion-refugee-maria-teresa-rivera-el-salvador/

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El Salvador: The people fighting the world’s harshest abortion law

The people fighting the world's harshest abortion law

By Rossalyn Warren, for CNN
Mon July 10, 2017

El Salvador's ban on abortion is one of the toughest in the world, but for the first time in 20 years, there are signs the law could be weakened. These are some of the men and women spearheading the country's movement for women's rights.

San Salvador, El Salvador (CNN) -- María Teresa Rivera was 28 when her mother-in-law found her bleeding heavily on the bathroom floor. She rushed Rivera to the hospital, desperate to save her life, but when they arrived, medics took one look at the young woman and called the police.

Continued at source: CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/10/americas/el-salvador-abortion-law/index.html

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Salvadoran Woman Becomes First Person to Be Granted Asylum Due to Regressive Abortion Laws

Salvadoran Woman Becomes First Person to Be Granted Asylum Due to Regressive Abortion Laws

Mar 28, 2017, 3:34pm Kathy Bougher

After giving birth in the latrine of her home in 2011, an unconscious Maria Teresa Rivera was taken to a public hospital. There, she was accused of provoking an abortion and sent to jail.

Last week, Maria Teresa Rivera of El Salvador was granted political asylum in Sweden based on her imprisonment for abortion-related charges—the first person to receive such protection in history.

Continued at source: Rewire: https://rewire.news/article/2017/03/28/salvadoran-woman-becomes-first-person-granted-asylum-due-regressive-abortion-laws/

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Support building for landmark move to overturn El Salvador’s anti-abortion law

Support building for landmark move to overturn El Salvador's anti-abortion law

Parliamentary bill proposing to loosen draconian restrictions on abortion finds favour after religious groups, doctors and others voice public support

Nina Lakhani in Mexico City

Thursday 23 March 2017

El Salvador’s controversial law banning abortion in all circumstances, which has provoked ruthless miscarriages of justice, could be overturned in what has been described as a historic move.

Momentum is building around a parliamentary bill proposing to allow abortion in cases of rape or human trafficking; when the foetus in unviable; or to protect the pregnant woman’s health or life.

Prominent church groups, doctors, lawyers and ethicists have generated a groundswell of public support after speaking out in favour of loosening restrictions in a series of public hearings and debates.

Continued at source: The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/mar/23/el-salvador-anti-abortion-law-overturn-support-building-landmark-move

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On the Front Lines of El Salvador’s Underground Abortion Economy

Amid an indifferent state and an activist Church, a defiant network of health workers struggle to offer a reprieve from the world’s most restrictive abortion laws.

By Nina Strochlic
January 3, 2017, Foreign Policy
On the Front Lines of El Salvador’s Underground Abortion Economy

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — The doctor doesn’t want his real name used, and when asked what he’d like to be called instead he laughs. “Dr. Hell,” he says. With a straw fedora, white Ralph Lauren button-down, and trimmed goatee, he looks better suited to the Hamptons than performing illegal underground abortions in El Salvador, a violence-wracked sliver of Central America that was recently crowned the world’s murder capital.

But halfway through August, he’d already helped three women get abortions under the most restrictive circumstances in the world. Since 1998, El Salvador has been one of six countries where abortion is banned under all circumstances, regardless of whether the mother’s life is at risk, the fetus is viable, or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.

[continued at link]
Source: Foreign Policy

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Welcome to El Salvador: Forty years’ jail for your miscarriage

2016 Issue 3, Conscience
By Andrew Buncombe
Posted Dec 20, 2016

When Maria Teresa Rivera was jailed in El Salvador for 40 years after suffering a miscarriage, the authorities would not allow her to keep a photograph of her son, Oscar. So she would shut her eyes and call up moments from the past, memories that burned bright and deep, and which allowed her to form an image of the youngster in her mind. Being away from Oscar for the five years she eventually served was the most difficult aspect of her incarceration. “Sometimes I would feel sad and desperate,” she told me, a few days after she was released this past spring. “I would go to the church and pray. It helped a lot.” Ms. Rivera, 33, was a victim of what is probably the most draconian legal situation in the world for repro­ductive rights.

[continued at link]

Source: Conscience

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Making El Salvador’s abortion law more punitive would compound injustice

Salvadoran women take part in a demonstration against anti-abortion laws at the congress in San Salvador in April 2015. Photograph: Stringer/El Salvador/Reuters

A proposed increase in the length of jail sentences for Salvadoran women who have an abortion would be a backward step for social justice and development

Kelly Castagnaro
Thursday 14 July 2016

A conservative political party in El Salvador wants jail terms for women accused of having abortions increased to up to 50 years. The dangerous proposed amendment to the country’s penal code, discussions on which begin in Congress on Thursday, would also increase sanctions and jail times for healthcare providers and others accused of “promoting” abortion services.

Since 1998, abortion has been illegal in El Salvador, even when pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or puts the woman’s life at risk. Despite the ban, the Salvadoran health ministry’s information, monitoring and evaluation unit estimates that more than 19,000 clandestine abortions took place, a figure widely regarded as unreliably low. Adolescents comprise nearly a third of this number, further compromising their health and wellbeing in a region with some of the highest unplanned pregnancy and sexual assault rates.

Under the country’s “guilty until proven innocent approach”, women are serving criminal sentences for legal offences linked to abortion, fostering an environment of fear and despair among women and health providers. Local groups estimate that, to date, 17 women have been imprisoned as a result of seeking unsafe abortions and treatment for obstetric emergencies such as miscarriage or stillbirth.

In El Salvador, one of a handful of countries where abortion is completely illegal, women and girls’ lives are on the line daily.

The proposal to increase sentences for women who have had abortions is not only an egregious human rights violation, but also flies in the face of evidence showing that restricting access to abortion does not reduce the number of terminations. World Health Organisation research has shown that rates of unsafe abortion are likely to increase unless women are provided with access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception and safe legal abortion. The UN special rapporteur on violence against women has identified the complete ban on abortion as a direct contributor to the country’s high maternal mortality rates.

Restrictive laws and the threat of criminal sentences deter service providers from giving women who experience obstetric or post-abortion emergencies the care and treatment they need. Consider the case of María Teresa Rivera. When Rivera went into early labour and began bleeding heavily one night, her family called an ambulance. The next day, she was taken to jail. Her “crime” was to have a miscarriage. She was recently freed after serving four years in prison. Where will women with few options and limited access to services turn?

The proposed law change comes at a time when the government has asked women to avoid getting pregnant for two years in light of the rapid spread of the Zika virus. Women are in a life-threatening catch-22 situation.

But the issue is not only a matter of reproductive rights and public health. In a region with staggering levels of inequality, young, poor, indigenous women are particularly likely to resort to unsafe abortion. The proposed legal change would only exacerbate this injustice and stall efforts to amplify social justice and accelerate national development.

Parliamentarians are playing a dangerous game. Banning abortion in all circumstances is deplorable; proposing increased jail terms for women who seek an abortion, or those who provide medical support, is simply shameful and irresponsible. Thwarting the proposed change will require strong leadership. Global human rights bodies, and women everywhere, will be watching.

Kelly Castagnaro is communications director at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, western hemisphere region

Source: The Guardian

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This Salvadoran Woman Served 4 Years for Having a Miscarriage


She may be imprisoned for countless more.

Maria Teresa Rivera didn't realize she was pregnant in 2011 when she went into early labor. The 28-year-old factory worker in El Salvador, who already had one son, started bleeding heavily late one night, so her family called an ambulance to drive her to the hospital. The next day, Rivera was taken to jail.Her crime? Having a miscarriage.

Rivera is one of a number of women in El Salvador incarcerated not for abortion, which is illegal, but as a result of miscarriages. An abortion rights group in the area has identified 17 people convicted of homicide, with sentences upward of 40 years, after facing obstetric emergencies such as miscarriage or stillbirth.

After serving four of her 40-year prison sentence for aggravated homicide, Rivera's conviction was overturned by a judge and she walked free this spring. But the prosecution appealed her release, and this week a three-judge panel will decide whether to hold a new hearing or throw out the charges for good.

Only six countries in the world, including El Salvador, ban abortion in all cases, even when the pregnancy is the result of rape or threatens the life of the mother. Nicaragua, Chile, the Dominican Republic, the Vatican city-state, and Malta are the only other places with similar prohibitions. In January, El Salvador's deputy health minister told women to avoid getting pregnant for two years because of worries over the effects of Zika virus.

"A woman who procures herself an abortion is running a very high risk," Carmen Barroso, the former regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in the Western Hemisphere, told Mother Jones. "She'll run the risk to her life because she'll have to have an unsafe abortion because they are so limited in availability. It is tragic."

The ban in El Salvador got international attention in 2013, when the country's highest court rejected the abortion request of a young woman, known only as Beatriz, with a potentially life-threatening pregnancy, ruling the "rights of the mother cannot be privileged over those" of the fetus. The fetus suffered from anencephaly, a severe congenital disorder where the fetus' brain and skull stop growing, giving it little chance of surviving outside the womb. The woman survived after getting a controversial caesarian section.

Despite the ban, more than 19,000 illegal abortions were reported in El Salvador between 2005 and 2008, according to the Ministry of Health's Information, Monitoring, and Evaluation Unit, an estimate that advocates say is low. Nearly a third of abortions performed were on adolescents, who make up a large percent of the region's unplanned pregnancies. According to the World Health Organization, 9 percent of maternal deaths in Central America are the result of illegal abortions.

As a result of the criminalization, women in El Salvador frequently face legal scrutiny for abortion-related crimes. According to research done by a Salvadoran advocacy group, between 2000 and 2011 about 130 women were criminally prosecuted for ending their pregnancies. That number doesn't include cases where the allegations were dropped or cases involving minors, whose records are sealed. Almost 50 women were convicted of either illegal abortion or different degrees of homicide, which carries a sentence of up to 50 years.

Then there are the cases of the 17 women who are part of "Las 17," as they're known, who are all, like Rivera, young, impoverished, and accused of losing their pregnancies on purpose. Guadalupe Vasquez, a housekeeper, was only 17 years old when she became pregnant from rape. She decided to keep the baby but lost it during labor. After her employer sent her to the hospital, she was reported to the police and eventually sentenced to 30 years behind bars.

Many of the women, including Rivera, were reported to the police by medical staff at the hospital. In some cases, neighbors or friends called law enforcement.

"I felt the need to go to the bathroom, I pushed, and it was the baby that came out into the latrine," Rivera said in a video from prison. She passed out from loss of blood and was in the hospital when she woke up. "Then they took me to this place," she said.

Rivera was convicted "despite the complete lack of evidence of any wrongdoing," according to an analysis of Las 17 cases by a Salvadoran lawyer and a Harvard sociologist. The analysis also concluded that Salvadoran courts systematically discriminated against the women by aggressively pursuing "the mother's prosecution instead of pursuing the truth."

"In stark contrast to the courts' findings, our analysis concludes that the legal and medical facts in the majority of these cases correspond with medical emergency—not with homicide," they wrote.

Rivera successfully appealed her conviction and has spent the last two months walking free.

"What worries me is leaving my son alone again," Rivera, who grew up in orphanages, told Rewire after being released in May. "I was forced to abandon him for four and a half years, and he suffered greatly during that time."

Source: Mother Jones

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