The Center for Reproductive Rights issued the following:
02.19.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) On
the same day local advocates celebrate the official release of
“Guadalupe”—a rape survivor who became pregnant, suffered an obstetric
emergency, was charged for having an abortion and later wrongfully
imprisoned for homicide—anonymous sources have confirmed that El
Salvador will refuse to issue any additional pardons of other similarly
imprisoned women, according to Agrupación Ciudadana.
Last month, the Congress approved “Guadalupe’s” pardon by 43 votes,
after both the Human Rights Congressional Committee and Supreme Court
Committee submitted their recommendation for her release. The remaining
women, part of a group called “Las 17,” are each currently serving 30-40
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 resulted
in the wrongful imprisonment of countless women who have suffered
pregnancy-related complications and miscarriages, who are then charged
for having an abortion and wrongfully convicted of homicide.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Guadalupe’s release should be celebrated as a victory and
symbol of hope for women who have suffered under El Salvador’s unjust
laws, but instead it marks a day justice is being denied to the rest of
these wrongfully imprisoned women.
“Seeking critical health care in a medical emergency is not a crime, and no woman should have to fear imprisonment for doing so.
“El Salvador’s severe anti-abortion laws are a gross
violation of the human rights of Las 17 and women across the country. We
stand with our global and local partners to demand the release of all
women wrongfully imprisoned under these laws, and long-overdue reform
for all Salvadoran women living under their government’s cloud of fear,
suspicion, and abuse.”
In December, 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 charged
for having an abortion and were later convicted of homicide. “Mirna,”
one of “Las 17” was released in December after serving her prison
sentence before her pardon could be finalized. The remaining 15 women
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. In
January, a group of United Nations human rights experts called on El
Salvador to review its draconian abortion law and pardon all women
jailed for obstetric emergencies.
“The Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to shed
light on the human rights violations faced by women in El Salvador, and
we will not rest until the government reforms its laws to respect,
protect, and fulfill women’s rights to life and health,” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
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. Recently, the Center and the Agrupación
Ciudadana co-authored the reportMarginalized, 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
the center for reproductive rights