Salvadoran women fight back against criminalization of pregnancy 

El Salvador has one of the harshest laws against abortion in the world, and is notorious for criminalizing pregnant women. In El Salvador, abortion is criminalized even in cases of rape or threat to a woman’s life, and even women who experience miscarriages have been sent to prison for “aggravated homicide.” It was the government of this country which, months after Savita Halappanavar died in Ireland after being denied a life-saving abortion, denied Beatriz the care she needed to survive her pregnancy.

These laws not only threaten women’s health, but their safety and freedom. Cristina Quintanilla had a miscarriage while seven months pregnant, and ultimately spent four years in prison for it. Now she is fighting back against these cruel and misogynistic laws. Along with representatives from the Center for Reproductive Rights and a Salvadoran abortion decriminalization group called Agrupación Ciudadana, she testified this Monday in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Alex Zeilinski wrote about the hearing for Think Progress:

This tactic has be successful in the past. Between 1999 and 2011, a group of 17 women known as “Las 17” were sentenced to up to 40 years in prison for having miscarriages. In 2014, two of Las 17 were released — the first after both the Human Rights Congressional Committee and the Supreme Court Committee submitted recommendations for her release, and the second for simply reaching the end of her sentence. Prior to their releases, the United Nations and 12 countries outside of the U.N. also came out in defense of Las 17.

Quintanilla said she’s speaking to both bring justice to the remaining Las 17 and quash the harmful law once and for all. “I don’t want my story [to be] repeated,” she said. “As a consequence of the total ban, I suffered in prison, at the hospital—it negatively affected all aspects of my life. I don’t want to see any more women being mistreated and persecuted because of this unjust law.”

The hope is that Quintanilla’s brave testimony and the tireless work of advocates and allies will have similar success. Read the rest of Zeilinski’s article here.

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Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at Change.org, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

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