It is a war against women and girls that is documented in Amnesty International’s new report, On the Brink of Death: Violence against Women and the Abortion Ban in El Salvador.
The report illustrates how a change in the law 16 years ago criminalized abortion in all circumstances, making it one of the strictest abortion laws in the world. Women and girls in El Salvador cannot have an abortion, even if continuing their pregnancy might kill them, or if the fetus is not viable and will not live. Even a nine-year-old girl pregnant after from rape cannot get an abortion.
Those that defy the law and seek an unsafe, clandestine abortion are often punished severely. More than 11 per cent of maternal deaths are from unsafe abortions; deaths that are preventable. Those that survive face the possibility of prison sentences of two to eight years.
The Amnesty International report found that women who have had miscarriages are suspected of terminating their pregnancies and have been charged with aggravated homicide. Courts can order a prison sentence of up to 50 years in an aggravated homicide case.
The cases highlighted in our report are stark enough, but while in San Salvador, I have met with some of the world’s most forgotten women, women who were fighting for their rights in the face of adversity. It was a truly humbling experience.
Consider the story of Cristina. She was 18 years old when she miscarried. She passed out and was rushed to hospital where, instead of care and kindness, she was accused of actively terminating her pregnancy. In August 2005, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Ted Cruz rubs his hands together in excited approval.