El Salvador Legislative Assembly Misses Opportunity to Reform Draconian Abortion Law

(PRESS RELEASE) Today, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador failed to bring up a vote to reform its abortion law. This was the last opportunity—under the current Legislative Assembly—to vote on two proposed bills to amend Article 133 of the Criminal Code that would have allowed access to safe and legal abortion services when a pregnancy poses a risk to the health or life of the woman and in cases of rape and fatal fetal impairments.

Catalina Martinez Coral, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights said:

“The Salvadoran Congress failed to take a very basic step in ensuring access to safe and legal abortion for women and girls whose health and lives are at risk, or who have been victims of rape by not acting to reform its abortion law. 

“This is a major missed opportunity in the advancement of human rights that sends a signal that Salvadoran legislators are not committed to protecting the rights and health of women and girls.

"The Center for Reproductive Rights has been working for decades to expose the consequences that El Salvador’s blanket abortion ban has on the lives of Salvadorian women, and will continue to work with Salvadoran advocates and the international community to achieve abortion reform.”

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The Center for Reproductive Rights, together with Agrupación Ciudadana, currently has two cases before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of nine women who had serious pregnancy complications and are now in prison due to the severe enforcement of El Salvador’s absolute abortion ban and, on behalf of Manuela, a Salvadoran woman wrongfully imprisoned after having an obstetric emergency, who later died from untreated Hodgkins lymphoma in prison.

In December 2014, a coalition of NGOs led by Agrupación Ciudadana and the Center for Reproductive Rights launched the “Las17” online campaign calling for the release of 17 Salvadoran women who all suffered obstetric emergencies but were accused of having illegal abortions and subsequently convicted of homicide. “Mirna,” one of “Las 17,” was released in December 2014 after serving her prison sentence, before her pardon could be finalized. In February 2015, Guadalupe was successfully released and pardoned, after serving seven years in prison. In May 2016, Maria Teresa was released after a judge ruled that there were violations of due process in her case. And in February 2016 Sonia Tábora was pardoned and released. Maira and Teodora are the most recent members of the Las17 to be released after their sentences were commuted. The remaining women are still imprisoned, serving 30-40 years sentences for crimes they didn’t commit.

The Center and the 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. The report analyses how El Salvador’s health, judicial, and prison systems fail to guarantee women’s human rights.