A horror I didn’t manage to catch up with last week –
Glenda Xiomara Cruz was crippled by abdominal pain and heavy bleeding in the early hours of 30 October 2012. The 19-year-old from Puerto El Triunfo, eastern El Salvador, went to the nearest public hospital where doctors said she had lost her baby.
It was the first she knew about the pregnancy as her menstrual cycle was unbroken, her weight practically unchanged, and a pregnancy test in May 2012 had been negative.
Four days later she was charged with aggravated murder – intentionally murdering the 38-to-42 week foetus – at a court hearing she was too sick to attend. The hospital had reported her to the police for a suspected abortion.
After two emergency operations and three weeks in hospital she was moved to Ilopango women’s prison on the outskirts of the capital San Salvador. Then last month she was sentenced to 10 years in jail, the judge ruling that she should have saved the baby’s life.
Ten years in prison.
Xiomara’s father describes the conviction as a “terrible injustice”.
He testified in court that his daughter had endured years of domestic violence at the hands of her partner. And yet the prosecution – which sought a 50-year jail term – relied heavily on this man’s allegation that she had intentionally killed the foetus.
Xiomara has not seen her four-year-old daughter since the miscarriage.
El Salvador is one of five countries with a total ban on abortion, along with Nicaragua, Chile, Honduras and Dominican Republic. Since 1998, the law has allowed no exceptions – even if a woman is raped, her life is at risk or the foetus is severely deformed.
That’s just outright, frank, unabashed hatred of women.
More than 200 women were reported to the police between 2000 and 2011, of whom 129 were prosecuted and 49 convicted – 26 for murder (with sentences of 12 to 35 years) and 23 for abortion, according to research by Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion. Seven more have been convicted since 2012.
The study underlines that these women are overwhelmingly poor, unmarried and poorly educated – and they are usually denounced by public hospital staff. Not a single criminal case originated from the private health sector where thousands of abortions are believed to take place annually.
That sounds like Ireland, where poor women were locked up in the Magdalene laundries and poor children were locked up in industrial not-schools.
Munoz has worked with 29 of the incarcerated women, helping secure the early release of eight. “Only one intentionally induced an abortion, the other 28 suffered natural obstetric complications but were jailed for murder without any direct evidence,” he says.
Last year when Maria Teresa Rivera suffered a miscarriage, she was sentenced to 40 years in jail for aggravated murder.
Like Xiomara, Teresa, 28, had no pregnancy symptoms before sudden severe pain and bleeding, and was reported to police by the public hospital where she had sought emergency help.
The scientific evidence was flimsy, according to Munoz who will soon lodge an appeal, and the prosecution relied heavily on a colleague of hers, who testified that Rivera had said she “might be” pregnant a full 11 months before the miscarriage.
A textile factory worker, she was the family’s only breadwinner and her eight-year-old son is now living in dire poverty with his grandmother.
There’s much more. Read the whole thing. The BBC does do a good job of reporting on subjects like this. Outrages like this.