El Salvador: three women jailed for abortions released

El Salvador’s Supreme Court has commuted the 30-year sentences of three women imprisoned for abortion convictions, lessening their punishment to time served and ordering them to be released immediately.

The three women had spent about 10 years in prison on aggravated homicide charges for allegedly having abortions. All claimed that they had miscarriages. The court found that the women were victims of social and economic circumstances and ruled that the original sentences were unreasonable.

“In all three cases, the court recognised that the women have had adverse social, economic and family situations, and the sentences were disproportionate and immoral,” said the Foundation for Research on the Application of the Law.

Eighteen more women remain behind bars for abortion convictions in El Salvador, where abortion is illegal in all circumstances.

Upon being released from the women’s prison in the capital, Alba Lorena Rodríguez, 31, said: “We hope the government will recognise that a lot of women in here are innocent and, God willing, they will be freed.”

Cinthia Marcela Rodríguez, 30, had no medical insurance when she was arrested in 2008 after what she said was a miscarriage. The court commuted her sentence “for reasons of equity and justice, based on her economic, social and personal situation”.

“Justice is slow,” Rodríguez told a crowd of supporters as she left prison. “Keep fighting for the 18 who remain inside.”

The Citizens’ Group for Decriminalizing Abortion said the high court’s rulings “set a judicial precedent to review the situations of other women who remain in prison”.

In February, the court overturned another woman’s 30-year abortion sentence and ordered a new trial.


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