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A 37-year-old woman in El Salvador will spend the next two decades in jail because she gave birth to a stillborn baby in 2007, the Huffington Post reports.
Teodora Vasquez was arrested after she fainted at work and miscarried her child, and has spent the last ten years behind bars after being charged with committing an “aggravated homicide.” Though Amnesty International spent this week trying to appeal the case on behalf of Vasquez, the court upheld the 30-year sentence.
An outrageous travesty of justice: #Teodora faces another 20 years in jail on top of the ten she has already served in #ElSalvador, after suffering a miscarriage. We will not give up fighting for you, Teodora https://t.co/n2VzNYNgzA pic.twitter.com/ifVgOh6KTB— Salil Shetty (@SalilShetty) December 14, 2017
El Salvador has had a total ban on abortion—which is the strictest in the world—since 1998 and women who experience miscarriages often spend time in jail. Currently, 28 women sit behind bars for similar charges as Vasquez’s, according to Reuters.
“Teodora’s tragic story is a sad illustration of everything that is wrong with the justice system in El Salvador, where human rights seem to be a foreign concept,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty’s Americas director. “Instead of punishing Teodora for being a woman, authorities in El Salvador must urgently take a hard look at their outrageous anti-abortion law and take immediate steps to repeal it.”
Earlier this year, the United Nation condemned El Salvador’s law against abortion, which does not allow for exception even in cases of rape, incest, or in instances that could prove fatal for the mother. This week, as Vasquez’s case drew international coverage, people on Twitter also called for the end of the law.
Want to lower abortion rate? Stop believing it’s just moral failing that leads to pregnancy termination before we end up like El Salvador.— Keith Allen (@keithwadeallen) December 15, 2017
The amount of girls that get raped and cannot get an abortion due to getting imprisoned?? In El Salvador?? In 2017?? It's disgusting— jenni (@cryztallize) December 14, 2017
This is ultimately what the Pro-life movement is after. There are many men and some women who would not grant a legal abortion even to save a woman's life. This decision does not belong to a religious group & El Salvador is proof of how wrong governments get it. Women's rights. https://t.co/fUHoUq3mRo— debraj1121 (@debraj112) December 14, 2017
Not everyone in the United States disagrees with El Salvador, however. The Guardian reports that anti-abortion group Human Life International has quietly funded Sí a la Vida, the Salvadoran organization principally responsible for the country’s abortion ban, since 2000.
Vasquez’s lawyer, Victor Hugo Mata said her case cannot be appealed again and that there’s not much hope that her fate will change.
Tess Cagle is a reporter who focuses on politics, lifestyle, and streaming entertainment. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Texas Monthly, the Austin American-Statesman, Damn Joan, and Community Impact Newspaper. She’s also a portrait, events, and live music photographer in Central Texas.