Freedom Denied

After 10 years of wrongful imprisonment after she had a stillbirth, our client Teodora was again denied her freedom.

[UPDATE] Following 11 years of wrongful imprisonment after suffering an obstetric emergency, the Salvadoran Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) and the Ministry of Justice and Public Safety commuted Teodora's sentence and released her today. In their decision, the court stated that ‘there are powerful reasons based on justice, equity, and legal concepts that justify favoring her with the grace of commutation.” Although she has been released, her conviction remains.

12.17.18 - [UPDATE] After 10 years of wrongful imprisonment after she had a stillbirth, our client Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, was denied her freedom and will remain in El Salvador’s Ilopango prison until 2038.

In an unjust sentence revision hearing, the San Salvador Second Tribunal of Sentence upheld Teodora’s wrongful conviction, despite new evidence from doctors that the fetus had indeed died of natural causes.

The verdict drew international headlines, and the U.N. Human Rights wing called on El Salvador to immediately amend its draconian abortion laws, which penalize women for abortion-related offenses, and to ensure their compliance with international human rights standards.

This court decision will not stop us from fighting for Teodora’s freedom, Las 17 and all women who have been wrongfully imprisoned under the country’s draconian abortion law.

- When our client Teodora del Carmen Vásquez discovered she was pregnant, she was thrilled. Not only would she be expanding her family, but she would be giving her only son a brother. It was joyous news—that is, until things went terribly wrong.

Teodora began experiencing severe pain at work, and told her boss she needed to go to the hospital immediately. He called the police for help, but while they waited Teodora began losing blood rapidly, eventually losing consciousness in the bathroom where she delivered a stillborn.

The next thing Teodora knew, she was being handcuffed by police who claimed she had deliberately attempted to end her pregnancy—a violation of El Salvador’s total abortion ban. Despite a lack of evidence and multiple due process violations in her case, Teodora was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide.”

Today, 10 years later, Teodora continues to suffer behind bars. Her son, who was then a three-year-old toddler, is now a 13-year-old young man. In that time, subsequent testimony from medical professionals has concluded that Teodora did in fact suffer a stillbirth due to natural causes. But her sentence has remained unchanged.

As judges review Teodora’s case, and we continue to advocate for her release, she finally has a real chance at freedom. And now you can help.

Sign our petition urging the Salvadoran government to free Teodora from her unjust sentence.

Unfortunately, Teodora’s story is not unique. She is one of 23 other Salvadoran women imprisoned after suffering pregnancy-related health emergencies. It is no coincidence that many of these women are low-income workers who are unable to obtain adequate legal counsel.

“These women never committed any crimes,” says Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “They are victims of systematic violations of their basic human rights. It is time for these women to obtain their freedom.”

Teodora deserves her freedom—and your support. Add your name to our petition today.