A young woman in El Salvador was sexually abused by her stepfather since the age of 12, impregnated by him at age 18, and now has a 2-year-old daughter by him. But adding to the horror of her experience, Imelda Cortez, now 20, is the one facing up to 20 years in prison after being accused of attempted murder due to her country's strict abortion laws, even though she says she didn't try to have an abortion, the Guardian and Reuters report. Cortez has been in custody since April of last year after she'd been rushed to the ER bleeding profusely and in pain; a doctor at the hospital suspected she'd tried to induce an abortion, which is banned in all circumstances in El Salvador. It turns out Cortez, who said she didn't even know she was pregnant, had given birth to a baby girl, who was found safe and healthy by cops.
The Guardian notes Cortez's case underscores the plight that young, poor women in El Salvador face, with an abortion law that doesn't allow for one even in cases of rape, when the mother's life is in danger, or when the fetus isn't viable. Some women have been convicted even when they've had a miscarriage or stillbirth. "By shackling these women to hospital beds and sending them to prison, it sends a strong message: If you're poor, it's not safe to seek health care," a human rights lawyer says. As for Cortez, she's "despondent," her lawyer tells Reuters: "Her case could go either way. But if the judge is objective and looks at the evidence, Imelda should be set free." Her criminal trial starts Monday. The Guardian says her stepfather hasn't yet been charged, but her lawyer tells Reuters he's now in jail for raping a minor. (This rape victim got 30 years in prison.)