Salvadoran Woman Jailed For Stillbirth Finally Released After 15 Years

The Supreme Court commuted the 30-year-long sentence of a Salvadoran woman who was convicted of having an abortion.

A woman in El Salvador was finally set free after spending 15 years behind bars for having a stillborn baby.

In 2003, Maira Verónica Figueroa Marroquín was originally sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment as per the El Salvador’s law on abortions. Fortunately her sentence for aggravated murder was later reduced by half.

Since the beginning of her case, Figueroa had held her ground about suffering a stillbirth and not opting for abortion, which she had been indicted for.

Upon her release, she expressed her desire to study law, which deprived her of a normal life for a decade and for a crime she claimed she didn’t commit.

"I want to study law to understand what happened to me and help other women," she said.

Figueroa was welcomed by her parents and along with journalists and activists outside the prison in Ilopango near the capital San Salvador.

"I am happy to be with my family. I'm going to start again and make up for lost time," Figueroa added.

This is the second time this year the Supreme Court in El Salvador relaxed its stringent law and reduced a sentence for abortion. 

Another woman, Teodora Vásquez, was released last month after spending 9 years in prison.

The court said it considered the sentence to be excessive and immoral.

However, there’s no escaping for the women from the country’s harsh abortion law even after their release, because their convictions will remain in force and they will continue to be considered criminals.

El Salvador is not the only country in Central America that has imposed a total ban on abortions and where miscarriages and medical emergencies have higher chances of getting criminalized.

Doctors are also under compulsion to report authorities of any such cases where a woman is trying to end her pregnancy or else they can face long sentences in jail as well.

Amid women’s health advocates’ persistent efforts against the draconian law and the pressure from international communities, El Salvador did bend its anti-abortion law.

Two amendments in the penal code have been proposed, under which a pregnancy can be terminated legally: if the woman’s life or health is at risk or in cases of rape and if fatal fetus impairments are detected.

The Congress still has to enact on these proposals.  

On the International Women’s Day, thousands of women marched in San Salvador demanding the authorities to back-pedal their abortion ban.


Banner Credits: Reuters, Jose Cabezas

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