In 2007, then 18-year-old Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder in El Salvador after suffering from a miscarriage. The mother of one was rushed to the San Bartolo National Hospital, a public health clinic, the day she faced complications with her second pregnancy. The doctors almost immediately called the police and arrested her under suspicion of murder.
Though there was no indication that Vasquez intentionally terminated her pregnancy (all forms of abortion are illegal in El Salvador) she was interrogated on the spot without a lawyer and was quickly thrown behind bars with other convicted murderers.
As of Wednesday, and by a very slim margin, Vasquez has been pardoned after 7 years in jail. The vote to free Vasquez came less than a week after the pardon failed to pass by one vote last Friday. This has members of the National Republican Alliance better known as ARENA, in a fury:
“You’re going to have to live with this,” hissed ARENA congresswoman Alejandrina Castro. “Abortion is just murder in disguise! Life starts at conception!”
“This is fraud and falsification!” protested fellow ARENA lawmaker Ernesto Angulo. “We are going to take this as far as we have to to fight for justice.”
The pardon is a victory for the country and has set a precedent for women across El Salvador. This release is the first in what feminists and rights activists hope will be the start of many more to follow. Vasquez was one of the 17 Salvadoran women sentenced to 12-40 years in jail for having miscarriages and illegal abortions.
Twitter users from around the world showed support in demanding Vasquez’s release using hashtags #Las17 and #IndultoYa or “pardon her already!” and many spoke up about the detrimental legal system in El Salvador.
“Guadalupe’s harrowing story is just one example of how the authorities in El Salvador go to ridiculous lengths to punish women. She should have never been imprisoned in the first place and must not be made to spend another second behind bars,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International. “By criminalizing having a miscarriage and prohibiting abortion even when a woman’s life depends on it, El Salvador is simply condemning thousands to death or decades behind bars. This must change.”
There is hope for women’s rights in Central America, and groups like FMLN, El Salvador’s left-wing organization and Ipas Central America, an international organization supporting and working for reproductive rights for women are actively working to achieve goals like Wednesday’s pardon.
images c/o fusion.net