Imprisonment for Pregnancy Miscarriage

  By: Daniel Nardini

                       Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary     If a woman suffers a miscarriage during her pregnancy, and the baby is lost, it is a terrible tragedy. Not only the physical health but also the mental health of the expectant mother will be affected, and she may never fully recover from this. But in El Salvador, the tragedy takes on far more legal and terrible consequences for any and all women. El Salvador has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world. I have written about how women who try to have an abortion, even in other countries or to save the mother’s life, can find themselves tried in court and sentenced to as much as ten to fifty years in prison.
                          The law also has another terrifying provision. If a pregnant woman suffers a miscarriage, this is considered “murder” of a “baby” and so a poor unfortunate woman could still find herself in prison. This is what happened in the case of a Salvadoran woman named Glenda Xiomara Cruz. One day, she was suffering serious abdominal cramps and was immediately rushed to hospital. She learned that she was in fact pregnant and she was actually miscarrying. Ironically, her menstrual periods had not stopped and she took a pregnancy test that came back negative. But now she was having a miscarriage, and there was nothing the hospital could do (note: it says something about the state of Salvadoran hospitals when they could not even perform an accurate pregnancy test).
                          After Cruz lost her baby, the hospital informed the government authorities of what happened. Cruz was charged with murder, and after being tried was sentenced to 10 years in prison. And all because she had a miscarriage. What is worse is that she has been taken away from her four year old daughter whom she had cared for. The case of Cruz is far from being the only one. There is also the case of Maria Teresa Rivera. She suffered a miscarriage, and she was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Then there is the case of Cristina Quintanilla. She suffered a miscarriage, and she received 30 years in prison. In these trials, the judges presiding over them told the women that they should have done everything to “save the child’s life.”
                             Are you kidding me? Miscarriage is unfortunately the natural process where the fetus is spontaneously aborted. There is no way to stop this, and there is no way to save the fetus. The Salvadoran anti-abortion law, which was put into place with the support of the Catholic Church and very powerful right wing politicians, has no basis in science. The law forbids abortion even in cases of rape, incest, if the mother’s life is in danger, or if the fetus is severely deformed. This law is positively medieval, and there is no way it can and should be defended. Sadly, this law is too well entrenched—despite the number of Salvadoran women who have been imprisoned for having an abortion or having a miscarriage—no one in the Salvadoran government wants to remove or change the law. The only prayer I can offer for all of the women of El Salvador is “may God truly have mercy on the innocent.”

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