Friday, March 03, 2017

Struggle for more humane abortion laws in El Salvador

El Salvador outlaws abortion in all situations and punishes not just abortion providers, but pregnant women, with some of the most draconian penalties in the world.   As Human Rigts Watch reported:

Abortion is a crime in El Salvador, with no exceptions – even in cases of rape or incest, where the pregnancy endangers the pregnant woman’s life or health, or in cases of severe fetal impairment. Anyone who has an abortion, and the medical providers who perform or induce them, can face drastic prison sentences. Women have been convicted of murder after being accused of having had an abortion, sometimes with prison terms for up to 40 years. For some of these women, having a miscarriage or stillbirth was used as evidence to convict them.
The quest to make these laws more humane continues.

There has been some success in getting a few women freed who had been imprisoned on homicide charges after being suspected of having an abortion.    One such woman was Sonia Tábora who suffered a miscarriage in a coffee field but was subsequently convicted of 'aggravated homicide'.

From the Independent:
This week, the Centre for Reproductive Rights, reported that Ms Tabora had been pardoned by the courts, drawing a line under a trauma that began 12 years ago.The court condemned the Salvadoran government for her wrongful imprisonment and ordered that the government provide reparations for the harm she has suffered. 
Ms Tabora is one of dozens of women who have suffered at the hands of the court in the strictly Catholic country, one of just a handful of nations that permits no exceptions for abortion. It is estimated that between 1998 and 2013 more than 600 women were jailed after being accused of having had an abortion. Those still serving such sentences have been nicknamed “Las 17”.
From TeleSur:
There are at least 14 women in El Salvador who have been sentenced to prison terms of 12 years or more for abortion and about 130 currently facing legal proceedings, according to the Citizens Association for the Decriminalization of Abortion. Under Salvadoran law, doctors must report cases of women who they suspect of having induced an abortion. 
Abortion remains controversial and is punished in several countries around the world. However, only four countries in Latin America (Chile, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and Nicaragua) ban the procedure entirely.
The prospects for a change in the law are uncertain:
The Salvadoran Congress has shown some indications of possible change. In October 2016, El Salvador's governing leftist party presented a proposal to Congress to allow abortion in cases of rape or risky pregnancy, offering a ray of hope to abortion advocates in the nation. 
The proposal, presented by the Farabundo Martin National Liberation Front, would allow abortion in cases of rape or sex-trafficking, when the woman's life is in danger or when the fetus is so deformed that it makes life unviable.
At the same time, a a right wing legislator from ARENA has introduced a bill in the National Assembly to actually increase the penalty for women convicted of having an abortion from 30 to 50 years in prison.    

This issue has been around for many years with little progress.   Tiny steps might be possible, such as exceptions to save the life of the woman or in cases of rape or incest, but so far even those measures have met fierce opposition from conservative forces.   Meanwhile, it is poor women who continue to suffer the most.

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