A woman in El Salvador has to spent 40 years in prison, accused of homicide, because she had a miscarriage which a health worker caracterised as an illegal abortion. Maria Teresa Rivera didn’t even know she was pregnant until this miscarriage, when her mother-in-law took her to the hospital after finding her bleeding on the floor.
The case of Rivera isn’t unique. El Salvador’s extremely strict laws against abortion mean that abortion is considered equivalent to homicide and can result in imprisonment, even in such a case when abortion was not exaclty the case. Before 1998, the country’s laws allowed abortion for specific reasons, like birth-related health problems or cases of rape. However, now every kind of abortion is criminalized,which can result in incarceration for women that giving birth would result in life-threatening situations.
This law has other implications as well: in such a country, where extreme poverty is the usual financial situation for citizens, imprisoning young mothers means blocking them from working to earn a basic wage to support their families. Rivera is a single mother of a 10 year old, who now has to live on the extremely low pension of Rivera’s mother in law.
Amnesty International is running a research there, taking to women who are have endured problems because of such laws. One of the researchers, named Astrid Valencia, made a statement demanding of El Salvador to rethink the law. “Each time authorities in El Salvador unfairly lock up a woman for having a miscarriage or suffering pregnancy-related complications, they are also condemning her children to a life of poverty and trauma,” she said.
Even though El Salvador is one of the worst cases considering this legislation, it is not a local problem. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women on the planet live in countries where abortion is allowed solely under life-threatening situations. Feminist movements have a lot of work to do.