WGNRR welcomes with great joy the pardon issued by the Salvadoran Congress for “Guadalupe,” one of the 17 women wrongfully imprisoned for homicide after suffering pregnancy-related complications. The pardon was approved by Congress with 43 votes in favour after both the Human Rights Congressional Committee and Supreme Court Committee resubmitted their recommendation for her release.
This is a ground-breaking event within the framework of Human, Sexual and Reproductive Rights of women in El Salvador, considering that it is one of the countries in Latin America where abortion is criminalized under all circumstances–even when necessary to save a woman’s life—imposing harsh criminal penalties on both women and physicians. The ban has also resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of countless women who have suffered pregnancy-related complications and miscarriages.
Vanessa Coria, Advocacy and Program Manager at WGNRR stated:
“Today, we wake up with our hearts filled with joy and hope! Guadalupe will be free at last and we will keep fighting until the last of the Las17 enjoys this same freedom.”
The Program Manager of WGNRR sent a heartfelt congratulatory message to Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto and to all the other organizations and groups that worked together for this cause. She also thanked all of those who expressed their support via social media and to those who participated in the local protests.
In April 2014, a coalition of NGOs including WGNRR, led by Agrupación Ciudadana, launched the “Las17” campaign calling for the release of “Guadalupe” and 16 other Salvadoran women who all suffered obstetric emergencies and were later convicted of homicide. “Las 17” are each currently serving 30 to 40 year sentences.
One of the most serious and reproachable consequences of the total ban on abortion is the incarceration and biased trials as a result of the stigma that surrounds this topic, which is detrimental to women that did not even make the decision to interrupt their pregnancy, but rather suffered from spontaneous abortions, severe complications during pregnancy or non-hospitalized deliveries that resulted in the death of their children, which is exactly what happened in the case of Guadalupe and the rest of the Las17.
The criminalization of abortion not only affects women’s rights to life, health, bodily integrity, autonomy and freedom. It also violates women and girls’ right to live free from gender-based discrimination, as established in CEDAW. These kinds of laws contradict governments’ most basic obligations to fulfil the rights and well-being of their populations, and are unacceptable and unjustifiable.
We at WGNRR, representing more than one thousand organizations and individuals worldwide, thus urge the government of El Salvador to:
- Grant the pardon to the 15 women that are still in jail for reasons similar to those of Guadalupe’s case, order their immediate release and take the necessary measures to prevent these cases from happening again.
- Conform its domestic laws to international treaties and human rights standards, in order to ensure the meaningful protection of the human rights of women. This includes decriminalizing abortion, protecting women and girls from gender-based violence and ensuring access to information to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
- End this type of institutional violence that puts women and girls at grave risk, by ensuring that the legislation better respects, protects and fulfills women’s rights by removing criminal sanctions on abortion, at least on the grounds of rape, incest, fetus malformations, and when the women’s health or life is at risk.
- Take all measures necessary to ensure women’s ability to exercise their rights to life; health; non- discrimination; to determine the number and spacing of their children; and to be free from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
We also make a call to all our members, partner organizations and associates around the world to keep joining in our efforts to make the release of the other 15 women a reality.
The pardon for Guadalupe is an important achievement, nevertheless, there is still much change needed for women in El Salvador to be able to exercise meaningful decision-making power in their lives, and have access to comprehensive health services, as part of the State’s obligation to guarantee the protection of the rights of all people, including women. We at WGNRR, will continue working arduously on the remaining cases for pardon, supporting the very important task of defence and promotion of human rights alongside the activists of El Salvador.
 The other countries are Chile, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti and Surinam (cfr. Guttmacher Institute. “En Resumen: Hechos sobre el aborto en América Latina y el Caribe”. January 2012. Available at: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/IB_AWW-Latin-America-ES.pdf).
 Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (Convention of Belem do Para) Ratified by the Dominican Republic on the 3rd of July 1996. Available at: http://www.oas.org/juridico/spanish/tratados/a-61.html.