El Salvador has one of the world’s toughest abortion laws. The court has upheld a 30-year sentence of a woman, who was accused of “aggravated homicide” in 2008, while she claimed she had a miscarriage.

Back in 2007, Teodora del Carmen Vasquez was nine months pregnant when she felt piercing pain, and while calling the ambulance, she started bleeding and fainted. As she came to her senses, the police accused her of killing her own baby by inducing an abortion.

Despite her attorneys’ efforts to prove that the baby was born dead and to appeal the sentence, Vasquez was charged with aggravated murder, and jailed. The court said in a statement that, according to the government autopsy conclusion, the baby girl was born alive and asphyxiated.

Nancy Northup, the CEO of the non-profit Center for Reproductive Rights, said that the court’s decision was “another slap in the face for Teodora, who never committed any crime.”

The Salvadoran court is perpetuating the criminal prosecution of women who suffer pregnancy complications, denying women their dignity, freedom and rights,” Northup added.

The Center has been struggling to release dozens of other women who were accused of murder for obstetric emergencies. Abortions in El Salvador were banned in all circumstances, with no exceptions, in 1998, even in the case of rape, or when a woman’s life’s at risk, or the fetus was deformed. Women who have an abortion, or miscarry in that small Central American country may face up to 50 years in prison.


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