These women are living proof that criminalizing abortion doesn’t work.
Abortion has been illegal in El Salvador since 1998. And when abortion is considered aggravated homicide, women can be jailed for a miscarriage. Between 1998-2011, 17 women were thrown in prison after suffering pregnancy-related complications. They became known as “Las 17.”
One of the women serving time based off of this policy is named Alba, who got pregnant after she was raped and is now serving 30 years in prison. Another named Marina also experienced a miscarriage and is serving 35 years for aggravated homicide.
Because of its illegal status, a secret network of doctors, health workers and activists still perform pregnancy-ending procedures in secrecy. Still, they are difficult to obtain and thousands of women across the country end up dying from trying to end pregnancies on their own.
For years, former legislator Lorena Peña has been trying to change the abortion ban. Her amendments would have added exception to the abortion ban if the mother’s life is at risk, the fetus isn’t viable or in cases of rape of trafficking.
Though conservatives take the majority in the new Legislative Assembly, Peña says she will still reintroduce her bill every six months to end the country’s total abortion ban and save the lives of women and girls.