A Salvadoran woman serving a 40-year sentence for nothing more that having a miscarriage was released Friday after a court absolved her because she is suffering from serious health complications.
Maria Teresa Rivera, who had served three years of her sentence, has a kidney infection she developed prior to her miscarriage that was left untreated, leading the court to overturn her conviction.
Following a 1998 amendment to the Penal Code, El Salvador criminalized abortion in all circumstances even when it is necessary to save a woman’s life.
Rivera was serving a sentence for "aggravated homicide" since 2011 after without ever realizing she was pregnant, she went into early labor, experiencing heavy bleeding and ultimately miscarried in a public restroom.
Her family called emergency services and at the hospital the police were called on the suspicion that she induced an abortion. She also has an 11-years-old child that was not allowed to visit her while in prison.
According to human rights organizations, there are about 19 woman facing similar situations to that of Rivera. In 2014, a coalition of NGOs led by Agrupación Ciudadana and the Center for Reproductive Rights launched the “Las17” online campaign calling for the release of these women.
Abortion remains illegal and is punished in several countries around the world. However, only four countries in Latin America (Chile, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and Nicaragua) ban the procedure entirely.