Hidden health crisis

El Salvador women are ending up in jail over miscarriages

People gather outside the National Maternity Hospital in San Salvador, El Salvador. Jose CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images

In El Salvador, human rights groups are seeking to repeal an incredibly harsh abortion ban, which is resulting in young and poor women convicted of homicide for babies who were stillborn or died through miscarriages or for reasons unknown. Abortion has been illegal since 1997 there without exception — even in cases of rape or when a mother’s health is in grave danger. The strict legal environment has caused a climate of suspicion towards pregnant women, according to human rights group Amnesty International.  “El Salvador is moving to becoming a strong democracy. The battle over abortion is an extreme reflection of discrimination against women,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas of Amnesty International. “We know of 129 cases of women charged with abortion-related crimes and put in prison between 2003 and 2013. But there is no statistical information, and the number could be higher. And we know of 17 cases of women jailed for aggravated homicide.” Dennis Muñoz, the lawyer for a woman who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after her baby died at birth, says the El Salvadorian machismo-culture as well as class discrimination are to blame. He points out that it is a hidden health crisis, affecting mostly rural and poor women. Repealing or even reforming the law seems unlikely, however, with a conservative party in power and the country’s very powerful Catholic and Evangelical Churches staunchly opposing any reform to the legislation.

Read the full story at Al Jazeera.

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