El Salvador is not a safe country for women. The secretary general of Amnesty International reports:
Beneath the surface of apparent peace in El Salvador, a hidden war is being waged. It is a war that does not involve guns or troops but one that has resulted in the imprisonment and unnecessary deaths and disability of thousands.
It is a war against women and girls that is documented in Amnesty International’s newreport, On the Brink of Death: Violence against Women and the Abortion Ban in El Salvador.
The report illustrates how a change in the law 16 years ago criminalized abortion in all circumstances, making it one of the strictest abortion laws in the world. Women and girls in El Salvador cannot have an abortion, even if continuing their pregnancy might kill them, or if the fetus is not viable and will not live. Even a nine-year-old girl pregnant after from rape cannot get an abortion.
Just to make sure no opportunity is missed, miscarriages are treated as suspected abortions.
Consider the story of Cristina. She was 18 years old when she miscarried. She passed out and was rushed to hospital where, instead of care and kindness, she was accused of actively terminating her pregnancy. In August 2005, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Men also are fighting this injustice. Dennis Muñoz, a lawyer who heard Cristina’s story, was so shocked he tracked her down to the prison where she was being held.
Together they fought a two-year legal battle to get her sentence reduced. They won her release, but not before she had spent four years in prison. Muñoz describes the country’s abortion ban as a “witch hunt against poor women.”
Amnesty International believes that El Salvador’s total ban on abortion is a form of torture. It pushes women and girls to the brink of death. The ban violates women’s and girls’ right to life by forcing them to seek unsafe abortions, putting their health and lives at risk. It also denies them their right to health, privacy and to non-discrimination.
It is a shame to see El Salvador so far behind the rest of the world in its legislation on abortion. It is one of seven Latin American countries with a ban on abortion in all cases.
The Vatican is happy though.