Mom Who Miscarried Could Do More Time for 'Homicide'

El Salvador's anti-abortion laws are some of world's strictest, have jailed women who miscarry
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2016 6:48 AM CDT

(Newser) – When Maria Teresa Rivera, a 28-year-old factory worker in El Salvador and single mom of a young boy, began to bleed heavily and collapsed, her family called an ambulance. She had just miscarried a baby she didn't even know she was pregnant with, and the next thing she knew she was in jail, accused of aggravated homicide. Rivera was sentenced to 40 years in prison and had to leave her son behind, reports Mother Jones. "I was forced to abandon him for four and a half years, and he suffered greatly during that time," she told Rewire in May. (Mother Jones notes that 19,000 illegal abortions were reported in El Salvador, which has the world's strictest total abortion ban, between 2005 and 2008, nearly a third of them on adolescents. The World Health Organization reports that 9% of maternal deaths in Central America are from illegal abortions.)

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But a judge who reviewed her case four years into her sentence ordered her release this past spring, and she enjoyed an entire month of freedom—"To hug my son again after four and a half years … it was the happiest feeling that I could have felt, something I will never forget"—before El Salvador's attorney general challenged the decision in what Fusion is calling "an act of mustache-twisting nastiness." And while Rivera awaits a three-judge panel's decision this week, there is increased attention on "the 17," a group of women serving 12 to 40 years for having miscarriages or spontaneous abortions. While three women have been released since the group formed in 2014, another dozen have been locked up. "I have to fight for them," Rivera says. (One woman's conviction in El Salvador was based solely on her allegedly abusive husband's testimony.)

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