Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz was repeatedly raped by a gang member for months as part of a “forced sexual relationship”. In April 2016, she gave birth to a stillborn in the latrine (toilet/outhouse) of her rural home after suffering back and abdominal pain.
She did not know she was pregnant, as she had “intermittent bleeding” during the pregnancy and confused it with her menstrual cycle. When she gave birth to the stillborn, she lost a lot of blood and her mother rushed her to the hospital, leaving the remains, including the stillborn, inside the latrine.
Hospital staff suspected Hernandez of having an abortion, which is illegal in El Salvador. She was detained and has been in custody ever since, says reports.
“El Salvador is one of just five countries where abortion is criminalised in all cases, even when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest or puts the health of the woman or girl at risk”, says reports, but “no country prosecutes the law with as much aggression as the staunchly Catholic El Salvador.”
Women accused of having abortions in El Salvador are punished with sentences relating to homicide and murder.
In 2011, Maria Teresa Rivera was sentenced to 40 years in prison after suffering a stillbirth at home. She was convicted of murder, but was released after serving 4 and a half years.
Hernandez was convicted of aggravated homicide and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Her attorney plans to appeal the conviction.
“Prior to 1998, abortion was permitted in cases of rape, incest, where a foetus was injured or if the mother’s life was in danger”, says reports.
“That year, under pressure from the church and right wing politicians, the law was changed to remove any exceptions whatsoever. Some estimates have suggested that between between 1998 and 2013, more than 600 women have been jailed after being accused of having had an abortion.”