Image: AP

Evelyn Hernández, the Salvadoran woman sentenced to 30 years in prison after a stillbirth, has been cleared of all charges in a retrial.

In 2016, after police found fetal remains outside an outhouse near her home in El Salvador, where abortion is illegal in all situations, Hernandez was arrested. Hernández, at the time an 18-year-old rape survivor, was in high school. She claims she never knew she was pregnant until she went into labor and delivered a stillborn baby in the toilet. In February 2019, she was granted a retrial after the defense presented forensic evidence indicating the baby died of meconium aspiration, death from inhaling stool, which can happen in utero, during delivery, or just after birth. Her retrial began in July, and the second time around, prosecutors asked for an even longer, 40-year sentence.

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On August 19, Hernández was cleared of all charges. While other Salvadorian women convicted of having abortions have had their 30-year sentences commuted, Hernández is the first to have her verdict completely overturned.

Groups hoping to free more women in the country say there are at least 17 others currently in prison under the abortion laws, though over the last ten years, 30 have been freed upon review of forensic evidence.