At a court hearing she was too sick to attend

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.

That’s appalling.

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.


  1. AsqJames says

    Related (and also part of the BBC’s 100 Women Conference sub-site):

    Dutch doctor Rebecca Gomperts is no stranger to controversy through her work with her organisation, Women on Waves.

    She sails into countries where abortions are illegal and provides the abortion pill to women who wish to terminate their pregnancies.

    She believes the work she does saves women’s lives. But she has encountered strong opposition from pro-life groups and governments – including facing down warships when her yacht approached Portugal.

    “She believes” she saves lives? We know for a fact that abortion saves lives.

    The BBC does do a lot of good things, but it’s so big it’s bound to also do some really crappy things. It’s also constantly under attack for being a hive of politically correct atheo-commies who want to destroy the British Way of Life, which leads to the kind of mealy-mouthed wording above.

  2. Silentbob says

    Last year when Maria Teresa Rivera suffered a miscarriage, she was sentenced to 40 years in jail for aggravated murder.

    Got nothin’. Words fail.

    The BBC does do a good job of reporting on subjects like this. Outrages like this.

    Yourself likewise. Thank you.

  3. left0ver1under says

    It’s the same story in the Philippines, women resorting to back alley abortionists, “massages” to induce abortion, fake medical quackery and poisons. And like the other countries mentioned, severe punishments and equating of abortion to murder. Even sex education is frowned upon.

    The fact of overpopulation (nearly 100 million people), poverty and rising oil prices is providing a wakeup call to the populace and government. There is a rising demand for contraception, though legal abortion may never come to that religion-soaked country.

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Wow. Staggering injustice here. I find it hard to believe this really happens – not that I’m doubting Ophelia Benson or any of the sources here, I accept the truth of what were told; its just this sheer level of misogynistic evil is hard to comprehend.

    I hope as word of this gets out pressure is applied by hundreds of millions of people world-wide and these laws and situations are quickly changed.

  5. PatrickG says

    I’ve noticed posts like this don’t get many comments. I know I don’t usually comment on posts on horrific subjects like this. But was spurred to comment by Silentbob — thanks for amplifying these atrocities.

  6. Silentbob says

    @ 5 PatrickG

    I’m a poor conduit myself, but I’ve long thought that the value of blogs like this one are underrated. I’m sure for everyone moved to comment, a hundred or a thousand have their worldview readjusted, however slightly.

  7. rq says

    I find it difficult to comment on this kind of post because I simply don’t know what to say. It’s all so horrible, and… just horrible. Alternatively, I could settle for typing an endless stream of ‘Words fail’.

    Because they really, really do.

  8. Jackie teh kitteh cuddler says

    That’s the the world the far right wants us all to live in. Never doubt it.


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