(PRESS RELEASE) This week a nineteen-year old Salvadoran rape survivor who became pregnant and suffered a stillbirth was sentenced to 30 years in prison on charges of aggravated homicide.
Evelyn Beatriz, who has been in Ilopango Prison since April 2016, was sentenced Wednesday by Judge Nury Velazquez in Cojutepeque. In late October 2016, she was accused of aggravated homicide even though the autopsy of the stillbirth was inconclusive. Her lawyers plan to appeal this sentencing by the end of this month.
Durante casi dos décadas, El Salvador ha penalizado el aborto en todas las circunstancias -incluso cuando es necesario para salvar la vida de una mujer- imponiendo duras sanciones penales tanto a las mujeres como a los médicos. La prohibición ha dado lugar al encarcelamiento de innumerables mujeres que han sufrido complicaciones relacionadas con el embarazo y abortos espontáneos, que luego son acusadas de haber abortado y condenadas injustamente por homicidio.
Dijo Catalina Martínez Coral, directora regional para América Latina y el Caribe del Centro:
“Evelyn Beatriz needed compassionate and immediate medical care and instead lost her pregnancy and her freedom.
“How many more women have to go to jail before the Salvadoran government realizes abortion law reform is crucial?
“The Salvadoran Justice System needs to stop criminalizing these women and instead support and empower them with complete access to health care, education and justice. We will keep fighting until all these women are set free.”
Evelyn Beatriz became pregnant after she was raped, without any knowledge of the pregnancy, and was too scared to tell anyone about the sexual violence she experienced. On April 6, 2016, she felt severe stomach pains and passed out in a bathroom while experiencing a stillbirth. Her mother asked for help taking Evelyn Beatriz to the hospital, but upon arriving there for urgent medical care, Evelyn Beatriz was detained and handcuffed to the hospital bed under police watch.
At her initial hearing on April 11, 2016, a judge ordered Evelyn Beatriz to provisional detention and she was moved to the Ilopango Prison. This week, she was accused of aggravated homicide and sentenced to 30 years without any proof or scientific evidence—the judgment given only on the theory that she did not seek prenatal care. The autopsy on the stillbirth done by Institute of Legal Medicine was inconclusive. This sentencing will be appealed by Evelyn Beatriz’s defense lawyer.
In October 2016, a group of congresswomen introduced a proposed amendment to the penal code that if enacted will allow women to access safe and legal abortion services when pregnancy poses a risk to their health or life and in cases of rape and fatal fetal impairments. The amendment received wide support from the Alliance for the Health and Life of Women (La Alianza por la Salud y la Vida de las Mujeres)—a coalition of more than 30 human rights organizations and international human rights activists including la Agrupación Ciudadana. The bill is still waiting for a vote within the Salvadoran Commission of Legislation and Constitutional Issues before it goes to the full Congress for further discussion and a final vote.
The Center for Reproductive Rights has worked to expose the consequences that El Salvador’s blanket abortion ban has on the lives of women. The Center together with the Agrupación Ciudadana filed a case in December 2015 before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights– a principal human rights body for the Americas—on behalf of nueve mujeres que tuvieron graves complicaciones en el embarazo y ahora están en prisión debido a la severa aplicación de la prohibición absoluta del aborto en El Salvador.
The IACHR announced in April 2017 that it will hear the case of Manuela, a Salvadoran woman wrongfully imprisoned after having an obstetric emergency who later died from untreated Hodgkins lymphoma in prison. In its informe, the IACHR states that it admitted Manuela’s case after determining that the government of El Salvador failed to provide access to justice for Manuela and her family in the country, citing failure to provide Manuela with adequate defense counsel.
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 “Guadalupe” and 16 other Salvadoran women who all suffered obstetric emergencies, were accused of having illegal abortions and were later 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, María Teresa fue liberada después de que un juez dictaminara que se habían producido violaciones del debido proceso en su caso. Y en febrero de 2016 Sonia Tábora obtuvo su libertad permanente. El resto de las mujeres están cumpliendo actualmente condenas de entre 30 y 40 años por delitos que nunca cometieron.
El Centro y la Agrupación Ciudadana son coautores del informe Marginadas, Perseguidas y Encarceladas: Los efectos de la criminalización total del aborto en El Salvador que documenta las consecuencias para los derechos humanos de la prohibición del aborto. El informe analiza cómo los sistemas sanitario, judicial y penitenciario de El Salvador no garantizan los derechos humanos de las mujeres.