An El Salvador woman sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder under the country’s strict abortion laws has been freed after nearly 11 years in prison. Carmen Vásquez was 24 years old, a mother of a 4-year-old son, and nine months pregnant when she called emergency services to say that she was suffering intense abdominal pain while at her job. Vasquez lost consciousness and awoke in a sea of blood. Instead of taking her to a hospital, police took Vasquez to jail, where she was charged with murder.
Vasquez, who is now 34, has long maintained that she had a stillbirth, but a recent effort to overturn her conviction was denied by an appeals court that appeared to ignore medical evidence that experts said proved her story is true. On Thursday, Vásquez was released after the supreme court commuted her sentence after ruling that there was no scientific evidence that showed she intentionally killed her child.
Including Vásquez, 16 women have now been freed after being jailed under a 1998 abortion law that banned the procedure in all circumstances and allowed women who undergo abortions to be prosecuted for murder. Mayra Figueroa, who was also given a 30-year sentence in 2003, is slated to become the 17th woman to have her conviction overturned or commuted next month. Despite the growing number of women who have had murder convictions overturned, the state’s aggressive prosecution of women accused of having abortions has continued unabated. In July, a teenage rape victim who had a stillbirth was convicted of aggravated homicide after prosecutors argued that her not seeking antenatal care was tantamount to murder.
Read the full story at The Guardian.