These women say they had miscarriages. Now they’re in jail for abortion – By Kate Smith, Gilad Thaler (CBS News) / May 28 2020
Seven months pregnant, Manuela, a mother of two, said she miscarried at her modest home in rural El Salvador. But the police, and a judge, didn’t believe her. They charged and convicted her for aggravated homicide, sentencing her to 30 years in prison.
But Manuela only served two of those years. In 2010, she died alone in a hospital of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a disease her lawyers say caused her to miscarry.
More than 140 women have been charged under El Salvador’s total ban on abortion since 1998, incarcerated for up to 35 years in some of the world’s most notorious prisons. Like Manuela, many say they never had an abortion, but instead claim that after suffering a miscarriage they were wrongfully convicted when their doctors accused them of intentionally terminating their pregnancies.
A photo of Manuela on display at her mother’s home in El Salvador. Manuela was convicted of homicide after what she said was a miscarriage. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison and later died of lymphoma.
At a moment when Roe v. Wade appears more vulnerable than ever to legal challenges, El Salvador provides a glimpse of what the United States could look like if bans on the procedure are permitted.
For more than 20 years, El Salvador — a tiny Central American country struggling with brutal gang violence and a record-high homicide rate — has completely banned abortion, including in situations when the procedure could save the patient’s life. The total ban was lobbied for by the Roman Catholic Church, an institution that became particularly powerful in the country after its devastating civil war. In 1998, the church was successful in cementing the ban into El Salvador’s constitution, adding an amendment to say that “life begins at conception.”
“No one should act against a life once it has been conceived,” said Father Edwin Banos, a social media savvy millennial priest based in Metapan, El Salvador, who’s thrown public support behind the country’s anti-abortion laws. “A doctor will always want to save both lives,” Banos said. “The mother and the child.”
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