No Savior in El Salvador

The politics of government play a major role in our daily lives. So, living in a country where the law is decided by politicians who are not in touch with the people’s reality will lead to many challenges. This is as true in Central and South America as it is anywhere else in the world. Such politicians pass laws and continue uphold laws that deeply affect peoples lives.

El Salvador directly translated is ‘The Savior’. For women and girls seeking abortion, there is no savior in El Salvador. I am not particularly comfortable with the idea of someone having an abortion when the pregnancy is unplanned but otherwise healthy, even so, regardless of my opinion I cannot determine how someone else lives their life. The situation in El Salvador, however, is an extreme case of the government playing God.

in 1998 a new law came into effect that criminalized any form of abortion in El Salvador. The law completely disregarded the circumstances that led to the pregnancy: rape, incest, as well as the reasons behind a required abortion: a miscarriage, the mother’s life being at risk due to complications, or even having a still birth. This now meant that any woman or girl who was accused with having had an abortion would be treated as a murderer.

A case that received wide-spread coverage was that of Maria Teresa Rivera. Maria Teresa was taken to hospital after her mother-in-law found her in her bathroom almost unconscious and heavily bleeding. She had a miscarriage. After being attended to at the hospital someone in the hospital staff reported Maria Teresa to the police accusing her of having performed a self-induced abortion. She was soon arrested. Her trial was a mockery of any respect for the law. One of Maria Teresa’s bosses testified against her saying that she knew Maria Teresa was pregnancy in January 2011. Had this been true then Maria Teresa would have been eleven months pregnant at the time of the miscarriage. This outrageous testimony was used as one of the pieces of evidence to convict her. She was charged with aggravated homicide and sentenced to forty years in prison.

Maria Teresa Rivera Free
Maria Teresa Rivera after her release from Prison.

In the end Maria Teresa turned out to be one of the lucky ones. After serving four years of her sentence she was released and has now been given asylum in Sweden. It was when Amnesty International became involved that she could see her luck changing. Amnesty began a campaign against El Salvador’s extreme abortion laws and Maria Teresa’s case provided them with a strong platform to fight with. After years of campaigning, organizing petitions, writing letters to the El Salvadorian government and gaining the support of other wold governments, Maria was released after the judge concluded that there was not enough evidence to prove the charges against her.

 

 

While this is obviously a great victory for Maria Teresa, it highlights the importance of the need to continue the campaign against the abortion law in order to release the many other women unjustly imprisoned and not just individuals who have received support from organizations such as amnesty. It is a damning shame that people who are supposed to be professional such as doctors and nurses so easily report suspected abortions to the police in order to avoid accusations of collusion.

No woman should be forced to carry a dead fetus inside her womb because the law forbids her from having an abortion. That is nothing more than simple common sense, I think we can all agree on that.

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