Women’s rights

El Salvador has convicted 17 women for having miscarriages under strict abortion laws

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When Maria Teresa Rivera, a 28-year-old factory worker who lives in El Salvador, began bleeding heavily one night and was taken to the hospital by ambulance, she didn’t know she was pregnant. By the time she found out the cause of the bleeding, Rivera was being arrested for having had a miscarriage, a health emergency that officials in the country claimed was a type of homicide that carries sentences of up to 40 years. Rivera is one of 17 women in the country whom prosecutors say have purposefully miscarried. Authorities consider what is deemed an intentional miscarriage a type of abortion, which is banned in all cases in the country. Rivera served four years of her 40-year sentence before her conviction was overturned, but prosecutors appealed the decision and now an appeals court is weighing whether she should once again be tried for her miscarriage.

El Salvador has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world, and prosecuted more than 130 women between 2000 and 2011 for illegal abortions, according to Mother Jones. The country recorded some 19,000 illegal abortions between 2005 and 2008, a third of which were performed on adolescents, according to the report.

The women who have been convicted of miscarrying, known as “Las 17,” are almost all young and impoverished, and were reported to police by medical staffs at hospitals where they went for treatment.

“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. “Then they took me to this place.”

Read the full story at Mother Jones.

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