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El Salvador is one of five countries with a total ban on abortion, along with Nicaragua, Chile, Honduras and Dominican Republic. Since 1998, the law has allowed no exceptions – even if a woman is raped, her life is at risk or the foetus is severely deformed. However, recent headlines have focused on the story of Glenda Xiomara Cruz, a 19-year-old from Puerto El Triunfo, eastern El Salvador.
After suffering from terrible cramping and abdominal pain, Ms. Cruz visited a nearby hospital where she was told that she had suffered a miscarriage. However, Ms. Cruz was unaware of her pregnancy, she had no disruption to her menstrual cycle, negligible weight gain and even a negative pregnancy test result. But after the shock of finding that she had not only been pregnant, but had lost the baby, Ms. Cruz was then reported by hospital staff to the police. Under suspicion of having an abortion, she was charged with aggravated murder – intentionally murdering the 38-to-42 week foetus.
After three weeks of treatment and surgery, Cruz was transferred to Ilopango women’s prison on the outskirts of the capital San Salvador. Last month she was officially sentenced to ten years in jail, the judge claimed that she should have tried to save the baby. Ms. Cruz’s lawyer, Dennis Munoz Estanley, stated that the legal system in El Salvador rests on an inherent “presumption of guilt” making it hard for women to prove their innocence. Mr. Estanley said Ms. Cruz “is yet another innocent victim of our unjust and discriminatory legal system which jails poor, young women who suffer obstetric complications for murder on the most flimsy evidence.”
What makes this case all the more shocking is that the key witness that testified to Ms. Cruz’s “culpability” in seeking an abortion, came from her ex-partner, who – according to her father – subjected her to years of domestic abuse. Since experiencing the miscarriage, Ms. Cruz has not seen her 4-year-old daughter.
Recent research by Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion have found that of the 200 women reported to the police for suspected abortions, the overwhelming majority of those were poor and uneducated. Not a single report was made from private medical facilities, where it is presumed that abortions take place frequently. This ultimately indicates that El Salvador’s discriminatory laws against women are even more pointed at the poor, who are much more likely to be reported to the authorities than those able to afford the silence of private medical healthcare.
For the full story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24532694