El Salvador Issues Pardon of Woman Wrongfully Imprisoned for Pregnancy Complications

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After a failed vote last week, Salvadoran Congress approves pardon for woman serving a 30 year sentence as a result of country’s extreme abortion ban
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(PRESS RELEASE) After failing to do so last week, today El Salvador’s Congress has finally approved a pardon for “Guadalupe,” a Salvadoran rape survivor wrongfully imprisoned for homicide after suffering a pregnancy-related complication. The Congress approved the pardon by 43 votes, after both the Human Rights Congressional Committee and Supreme Court Committee resubmitted their recommendation for her release.

For more than 16 years, El Salvador has criminalized abortion in all circumstances--even when necessary to save a woman’s life—imposing harsh criminal penalties on both women and physicians.  The ban has also resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of countless women who have suffered pregnancy-related complications and miscarriages.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Guadalupe’s release from prison is an important step toward justice for her and many other women whose human rights have been violated by El Salvador’s extreme anti-abortion laws, but more must be done.

“A woman who seeks essential health care has committed no crime, and she should neither fear imprisonment nor be required to seek a pardon for her actions.

“Today’s action by the Salvadoran government must be followed in short order by the release of every woman wrongfully imprisoned under this oppressive law and decisive action toward the decriminalization of abortion for all Salvadoran women.”

In December, a coalition of NGOs led by Agrupación Ciudadana and the Center, launched the “Las17” campaign calling for the release of “Guadalupe” and 16 other Salvadoran women who all suffered obstetric emergencies and were later convicted of homicide. “Las 17” are each currently serving 30-40 year sentences.

In November, 12 countries denounced the criminalization of abortion in El Salvador as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Salvadoran government has opted to postpone responding to the UPR recommendations until the next session in March 2015.

“El Salvador has finally heard the chorus of human rights advocates across the globe calling for the release of ‘Las 17,’” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “For decades, El Salvador has blatantly violated the fundamental human rights of these women and countless others. We stand with ‘Las 17,’ Agrupación Ciudadana and our global partners in this fight to seek justice for all Salvadoran women.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights has worked for more than 12 years to expose the consequences that the blanket abortion ban in El Salvador has on the lives of women. The Center and Agrupación Ciudadana co-authored the report Marginalized, Persecuted and Imprisoned: The Effects of El Salvador’s Total Criminalization of Abortion that documents the human rights consequences of the abortion ban, and includes the personal stories of five women who were unfairly prosecuted for illegal abortion after suffering obstetric emergencies without receiving medical attention. The report analyzes how El Salvador’s health, judicial and prison systems fail to guarantee women’s human rights.