In El Salvador, a Miscarriage Is Considered Murder

Women jailed for decades on charges
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2013 1:20 PM CDT
In El Salvador, a Miscarriage Is Considered Murder
Female inmates are seen at the women's prison of Ilopango in San Salvador, El Salvador, in this June 26, 2012 file photo.   (AP Photo/Luis Romero)

Glenda Xiomara Cruz hadn't known she was pregnant when the pain and bleeding started last October. The 19-year-old went to the nearest public hospital, where she had a miscarriage, and had to undergo two operations to save her own life. Then, before she was even out of the hospital she was charged with aggravated murder. Last month she was sentenced to 10 years in prison, the BBC reports. The prosecution relied heavily on testimony from her husband, who her father says domestically abused her.

Xiomara's case isn't an anomaly in El Salvador, where abortion is illegal without exception. From 2000 to 2011, 129 women have been prosecuted, and 49 convicted. There's a "presumption of guilt" in the system, explains lawyer Dennis Munoz Estanley, who has worked with 29 of the jailed women. He says only one of them intentionally induced her abortion—the rest "suffered natural obstetric complications." What's more, they are almost all poor, and were reported by public hospitals. Private hospitals have never reported a single case to the police. (More El Salvador stories.)

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