It has been over a year since the campaign Libertad para #Las17 (Free the 17) was started in El Salvador by the Agrupación Ciudadana , asking for pardons for 17 women jailed for abortion after having miscarriages, stillbirths or obstetric complications. Fifteen of these women are still behind bars, and we must continue to pressure the Salvadoran government to fix this injustice and return them their freedom.
— Las17 El Salvador (@Unaflorporlas17) October 19, 2015
“El Salvador keeps criminalising women who suffered obstetric complications”
El Salvador bans abortion in all circumstances, including when pregnancy is a result of rape or when abortion is required to save a woman’s life. Medical professionals face penalties for any involvement, and are obliged to report suspected abortions.
Women and girls are systematically persecuted under this law, even when they have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or obstetric complications rather than procured an illegal abortion. They are often sentenced to life imprisonment.
‘Las 17’ campaign, started in March 2014 by Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto (Citizens group for the decriminalisation of abortion), demanded the freedom of 17 of these women wrongly sentenced to life imprisonment following miscarriages or obstetric complications.
Their unfair trials did not meet international standards: they were denied due process, the right to be presumed innocent, access to adequate legal representation before and during their trial, or, in some cases, the right to testify in their own defence. Some of them were prosecuted for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment – up to 40 years– following trials where no conclusive evidence was presented and where decisions were based on conjecture and prejudice.
Most of these women come from disadvantaged backgrounds and suffer disproportionately from the ban on abortion, which doesn’t listen to the voices of those who have suffered from obstetric complications or miscarriages.
In January 2015, the Legislative Assembly granted the pardon of Carmen Guadalupe, one of Las 17. Mirna, another of Las 17, was also granted a pardon, but only by the time she had already served her sentence. The Supreme Court has not approved any other pardon so far. Other similar cases have emerged since the start of the campaign.
They are not criminals. They are not murderers. We demand their freedom.