When 33-year-old Maria Teresa Rivera was released from prison last May, she could barely recognize her twelve-year-old son.
El Salvador’s draconian abortion laws and the criminalization of those who assist with abortions have created widespread paranoia, if not a witch hunt, in which women who have had miscarriages or other obstetric emergencies are suspected of having abortions.
Rivera is one of seventeen women, known as “Las 17,” who were sentenced to up to 40 years in jail following reported miscarriages between 1999 and 2011, most on charges of aggravated homicide because their fetuses were ruled as viable. According to The Salvadoran Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, which has petitioned for their pardons, a total of 25 women are now in jail. “In this country, the rich eat the poor,” said Rivera, noting that all the women who have been wrongly accused are lower-class Salvadorans. “We are forgotten.” When Rivera was released, Morena Herrera — the matriarch of El Salvador’s women’s movement — was at the courthouse waiting for her. She counts it as one of the happiest moments of her life. But the women didn’t celebrate for long. The country’s attorney general soon announced his intention to appeal the decision. Herrera and lawyers say there is a high likelihood that Rivera may be sent back to prison. “I grew up in orphanages,” Rivera said, with tears filling her eyes. “I don’t want my son to have the same life.” [@LennyLetter link in bio]
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