Manuela, a 33 year old Salvadoran woman of low socio-economic resources, died of cancer while serving a 30 year prison sentence for the crime of aggravated homicide, after having suffered an obstetric emergency. During this time, she never received appropriate treatment for the cancer (Hodgkin’s lymphoma) which afflicted her. Manuela’s basic rights were violated by the health system, the police, and the justice system, resulting in an unjust imprisonment for a crime she did not commit. Unfortunately, Manuela’s case is symbolic of a greater problem that exists in El Salvador: the imprisonment of women, often times innocent, in processes that violate their rights to due process, equality, and freedom from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment (among others), all of which are a consequence of the absolute criminalization of abortion in this country.
On March 21, 2012, the Center and the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapéutico, Ético y Eugenésico (Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion) presented Manuela’s case before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. This case allows the Commission the opportunity to reveal the stigma created by the complete ban on abortion, and to hold the Salvadoran state responsible for failing to comply with its obligation to respect, protect, and guarantee women’s rights. You can find the toolkit for the case here.