El Salvadoran Court Frees Woman Jailed Under Anti-abortion Law

This was the cry that was heard this Monday, at the exit of the Salvadoran court of Usulután. Inside, Justice had just acquitted Imelda Cortez, the 21-year-old girl, imprisoned a year and eight months ago for an alleged attempted aggravated homicide against a newborn, how abortion is typified in the Central American country.

The young woman, raped by her stepfather from age 10, became pregnant at 18 after one of the attacks. She gave birth in the latrine of her house. The baby was born healthy but she almost bled to death.

When she was transferred to the hospital, the doctors believed that she had tried to have an abortion and called the police. The prosecution accused her of trying to kill her baby as soon as she was born and Imelda was remanded in custody for one year and seven months while the trial was postponed again and again. Now, Imelda is at liberty.

During the trial, the Prosecutor’s Office requested a change in the definition of the offense, from attempted murder to abandonment and abandonment of a person to the detriment of a minor, the judge acquitted Cortez of the charges of attempted homicide. The judge said that the “young woman did not act with intent” and, according to medical reports, “suffered a serious disturbance of conscience” after giving birth to her daughter “in a latrine”.

“We have known an acquittal and immediate freedom for Imelda because there was no crime,” said Bertha María de León, Cortez defense lawyer. “This ruling is an invitation for justice operators to fail according to the human rights of the victims. women and in accordance with international human rights standards, “he added.

According to sources of the investigation, the man was arrested when detecting a “suspicious attitude” in him. He was stopped and tried to flee. The house of the suspect showed signs of a hasty flight. Bernardo arrested, the neighbor suspected of the death of Laura Luelmo.

During the trial, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has repeatedly demanded that El Salvador change its legislation on abortion. El Salvador is one of the few countries in the world where abortion is prohibited in all circumstances, and where women who experience complications of pregnancy, resulting in spontaneous abortions or obstetric emergencies, are often accused of aggravated homicide. Prosecutor’s Office The penalty can reach 30 years in prison.

“Imelda represents girls and young adolescents who see their human rights violated in their entirety. We see how the State, through the absolute criminalization of abortion, condemns women like Imelda, put them in prison and others end up dead without their names being known, “said another lawyer, Keyla Cáceres.

Imelda’s sentence is hopeful for the feminist movement in El Salvador that has been fighting for a change in the abortion law for years and for the release of women imprisoned for that crime. Especially poor women and victims of sexual abuse who are totally unprotected by current legislation.

The Citizens Association for the Decriminalization of Abortion, formed by different feminist and human rights groups, presented clemency petitions in 2014 for 17 women who have ended up in prison after presenting themselves in the hospital with obstetric complications that put an end to their pregnancies

That year, more than 120 women were in jail in El Salvador, with sentences of 11 to 30 years, for having performed an abortion. Many of them had suffered spontaneously, after obstetric problems and gynecological complications during the gestation process.

“In almost all judicial processes, they had public defenders, characterized by deficiency and apathy in the defense of their cases in some situations, they came to trials without knowing the names of their defendants, all of which represents a violent action by the State against women “, denounced the Association.

The acquittal of Cortez opens is an important step for the rights of Salvadoran women. The Foundation for Studies for the Application of Law celebrated the release in a statement, noting that “the case constitutes a good legal, criminological and social precedent, where a woman who has been a victim” of rape and a judicial system is acquitted that criminalizes and is “unfair”.

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