Miscarriage of Justice

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El Salvador Prisons

There can be few things in life more emotionally painful for a woman who miscarries a child. The connection of that life inside you and the heartbreak when it’s taken from you – so you have to ask the question: Why are the authorities in El Salvador imprisoning women who have gone through this experience?

Amnesty International have been raising this issue over summer and the BBC have picked up the story with the problem gaining publicity:

“Glenda Xiomara Cruz was crippled by abdominal pain and heavy bleeding in the early hours of 30 October 2012. The 19-year-old from Puerto El Triunfo, eastern El Salvador, went to the nearest public hospital where doctors said she had lost her baby.

It was the first she knew about the pregnancy as her menstrual cycle was unbroken, her weight practically unchanged, and a pregnancy test in May 2012 had been negative.

Four days later she was charged with aggravated murder – intentionally murdering the 38-to-42 week foetus – at a court hearing she was too sick to attend. The hospital had reported her to the police for a suspected abortion.

After two emergency operations and three weeks in hospital she was moved to Ilopango women’s prison on the outskirts of the capital San Salvador. Then last month she was sentenced to 10 years in jail, the judge ruling that she should have saved the baby’s life.” – Full story here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24532694

Sometimes you just have to give yourself a shake and remind yourself that we are lucky to live in this country – even with all it’s faults – and also that this sort of thing is still happening in a country where the men are dictating what happens to women and their bodies. Even in cases of rape Abortion is illegal in the Mid-American country and jail sentences can be up to 30 or 40 years imprisonment if they suspect you have aborted a child or simply miscarried under the heading of “aggravated murder”.

If you o to a hospital after having lost your baby the staff could decide that you did it deliberately and call the police – and there is a presumption of guilt built into the system. Considering it is men in the main positions of power they have no idea or ability to empathise on the subject and in the last couple of years there have been over 100 women taken to court over this with around thirty being charged.

Amnesty reported the story of Beatriz in June this year and gained headlines across the Americas:

“no woman should ever experience the “unimaginable cruelty,” torture and discrimination suffered by the pregnant El Salvador women Beatriz, as she fought her government for months to obtain treatment to save her life. The organization urged El Salvador to end its total ban on abortion as Beatriz was recovering in a hospital from an early caesarean section, which the government finally granted. Doctors performed the early caesarean section on Monday to prevent the 22-year-old woman’s death from complications posed by serious illness and a nonviable pregnancy.” Full story here http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/el-salvador-must-end-total-ban-on-abortions-as-beatriz-22-recovers-from-early-caesarian-section

The vile circumstances that Beatriz found herself in endangered her life and she was forced to go through with a C-Section which didn’t end well (See the full story for details). I understand the moral position against Abortion – I don’t agree with it as it should always be the choice of the woman whose body it effects with sound medical research to support those decisions, but serious questions need to be asked about the practise in El Salvador putting women’s lives at serious risk and not considering the damage the unborn child will possibly be suffering either.

While it’s easy to point at emerging countries and question their “backward” visions of law and morals – we need to support groups like Amnesty to help highlight these issues and bring them to a wider global audience to put pressure on the governments and law makers to help them do the right thing. Sadly this is not an isolated case in El Salvador and across the world politicians – largely male – are still taking the decision making process out of female’s hands. Women and medical experts must always be at the front of the queue in these circumstances and not politicians. We know that states in America are pushing evermore Draconian ideals about abortion, so it’s not just a “poor” country issue. We need to support the rights of the individual in these cases and support the medical community to have their voices heard to stop these types of abominations.

JD

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