A 19-year-old woman in El Salvador has been sentenced by a judge to 30 years in prison after she delivered a stillborn in a toilet at her home in rural Cuscatlán.
High school student Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz was arrested in the hospital in April 2016 on suspicion of having an abortion (El Salvador is one of five countries where abortion is completely illegal) after police found the fetus’ remains in an outhouse. Initially, according to the BBC, she had been taken to the hospital by her mother because she passed out while giving birth.
Hernandez, who was in her third trimester, claims she never knew she was pregnant and thought she was having extreme stomach pains. Upon further investigation, police found no evidence that Hernandez sought an abortion and have since detained her on charges of aggravated homicide. Experts are uncertain whether or not the fetus died in utero or shortly after birth.
According to her lawyers, Hernandez was in a forced sexual relationship with a gang member and her pregnancy was the result of repeated rapes.
The female judge trying Hernandez’s case sided with the prosecution’s argument that the fetus died from antenatal neglect and that Hernandez had thrown the remains in the toilet with the intention to kill.
The Guardian reports:
In sentencing, the judge went further and suggested that Hernandez could not have acted alone and that her mother may also be criminally responsible.
According to Morena Herrera, executive director of the Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion, the verdict was based on prejudices held by the prosecutor and judge.
“The judgment sentencing Evelyn to 30 years in prison shows how in El Salvador justice is applied without direct proof, without sufficient evidence that clarifies what a woman has done,” Herrera said.
Hernandez is one in a long line of women wrongfully imprisoned in El Salvador after suffering miscarriages and stillbirths.
In a statement, Amnesty International wrote:
“El Salvador’s anti-abortion law is causing nothing but pain and suffering to countless women and girls and their families. It goes against human rights and it has no place in the country or anywhere.”
Similar injustices occur globally. Abortion is also banned absolutely—and with dire consequences—in Chile, the Dominican Republic, Malta, and Nicaragua. In the United States in 2015, Indiana woman Purvi Patel was sentenced to 20 years in jail for feticide and neglect of a dependent after disposing of stillborn fetus that she claims to have miscarried in a dumpster. Her feticide conviction was overturned in 2016.