In El Salvador, women thrown in jail for miscarriages and stillbirths... for up to 50 years!

El Salvador Gangs


(Associated Press) -- SAN SALVADOR - When Guadalupe Vasquez became pregnant at 17 after being raped by a neighbor of the house where she worked as a maid, she decided she wanted the baby. She even picked out a name: Gabriel. 

Then, on a day in late 2007, pain shot through her back and abdomen. Vasquez says she started bleeding, but her employer wouldn't let her leave the house to get medical care. Sick in her room and alone, she went into labor. 

She heard the baby cry briefly, and then he was dead. 

Only then did the employer send her to the hospital, saying she did not want to “deal with two dead in my house, Vasquez recalls. She passed out, and when she came to, she was handcuffed to the bed at a state hospital. 

The rapist was free, but now it would be Vasquez who would go to prison - for seven years and three months. 

Vasquez is one of several women in El Salvador who have been sentenced to as long as 50 years behind bars - not for having an abortion, which is illegal in the country, but as a result of miscarriages or stillborn births. In these cases, prosecutors have accused the women of causing the death of their fetus or infant. 

El Salvador, along with neighboring Nicaragua and three other countries, has the strictest abortion laws in the hemisphere. Virtually no exception is allowed for the termination of pregnancy, not for rape, incest, malformed fetus or danger to the woman's life. 

Yet the law is being taken to another extreme: imprisoning women who say the loss of their fetus or child was not their doing. 

Four days after Vasquez awoke in handcuffs, she was whisked to a courtroom. After two brief hearings, she says, she received a 30-year prison sentence for homicide.

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