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Women participate in a demonstration on July 10, 2017 in San Salvador, El Salvador in support of Evelyn Hernandez, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for a suspected abortion. (MARVIN RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images)

Second chance

Teenager sentenced to 30 years in prison for stillbirth wins temporary release

February 19, 2019

A 20-year-old woman in El Salvador who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide after suffering a stillbirth has been released after nearly three years. Following an appeal, a court ruled that Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz be allowed to return home until she is retried at a later date.

Cruz gave birth at her home in a small rural community in April 2016 before passing out from blood loss. During her trial, the then-teenager said she had been raped repeatedly, but had been too afraid of retribution to report the crime. She insisted she never realized she was pregnant and mistook intermittent bleeding for her period until she became ill with acute back and stomach pain shortly before giving birth.

Medical experts were unable to determine whether the fetus died in utero or shortly after birth, and Cruz herself said she didn’t know if the baby was born alive or dead. The judge in her case refused to believe she didn’t realize she was pregnant, and prosecutors said she should be held culpable of murder for not seeking out prenatal care.

Pro-choice and human rights organizations have hailed the decision to release Cruz, saying that they were hopeful a new judge would recognize the lack of actual evidence that she deliberately killed the fetus. Campaigners say there are at least 20 women still jailed unjustly due to El Salvador’s strict abortion laws, but that they have managed to free around 30 other women by pursuing evidence reviews and retrials.

Read the full story at BBC News.


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