In El Salvador, a nightmare I can’t even read about without quaking with fury.
Cristina Quintanilla was 18 years old in October 2004 when, seven months pregnant with her second child, she collapsed in pain on the floor of her family home. “I felt like I was choking, like I couldn’t breathe,” she says, shaking at the memory.
Quintanilla, who lives in San Miguel, El Salvador, fell unconscious and, bleeding heavily, was taken to hospital by her mother. When she woke up, dizzy from blood loss and anaesthetic, and having lost her child, she says she was startled to find a police officer, not a doctor, by her bed.
Because she’s a woman and she had a miscarriage, so OBVIOUSLY she committed a crime.
“It was strange because doctors wear white but he was wearing blue … He said, ‘From this moment on, you are under arrest.’ This confused me even more.”
Quintanilla says she was interrogated while still under the effect of anaesthetic, handcuffed and brought from hospital to a cell in a police jail, accused of having killed ker child. Within 10 months, she was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. “It was another huge tragedy in my life. I had a son, who was three years old. How could I ever be with my child, with my family, with a sentence [like this]?”
See? That’s why I can’t read it and stay calm. THIRTY YEARS IN PRISON FOR HAVING A MISCARRIAGE.
El Salvador has one of the world’s strictest abortionlaws, with abortion a crime even when a woman’s life is at risk. Human rights activists say this has created a system of persecution in the country’s hospitals as well as its courts, where any woman – and particularly a poor, young woman who loses her baby – is suspect.
Dozens of women like Quintanilla have reportedly been prosecuted and imprisoned on homicide charges after suffering miscarriages, stillbirths, or obstetric emergencies away from medical attention.
Because when in doubt, persecute a woman.
According to the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto (Citizens’ Coalition for the Decriminalisation of Abortion), 129 women were prosecuted for abortion-related crimes in El Salvador between 2000 and 2011, with 49 convicted (23 for abortion, 26 for homicide).
In a report published with the Centre for Reproductive Rights, the Agrupación says: “Enforcement of the country’s abortion law has had serious consequences in hospitals and healthcare centres, where any woman who comes to an emergency room haemorrhaging is presumed to be a criminal.”
In many of the cases documented, health workers had reported women to the police.
As if miscarriage simply didn’t exist!
High-profile backers of El Salvador’s abortion ban include senior figures in the Catholic church, National Republic Alliance party and the influential lobby group Sí a la Vida (Yes to Life).
While Beatriz’s case was being debated, José Luis Escobar, archbishop of San Salvador, reportedly suggested it would be inhuman and “against nature” for her to have an abortion, saying: “Sure, [Beatriz] has health problems, but she’s not in grave danger of death. Since we need to consider both lives we need to ask, whose life is in greater danger. We think that the foetus is in greater danger.”
How I wish there were a technology that could make some archbishops and cardinals pregnant against their will. How.I.wish.