What El Salvador’s Total Abortion Ban Means for Women and Girls

Portrait of Teodora Vasquez at her prison in El Salvador. She had been sentenced for 30 years after having an stillbirth out of suspicions of having had an abortion. In 2008, Teodora del Carmen Vásquez was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide” after suffering a still-birth at work. Teodora, mother of an 11-year-old boy, was expecting a new baby when she started experiencing increasingly severe pain. She called the emergency services but her waters broke soon afterwards. She went into labour, and was unconscious when she gave birth. When she came round, bleeding profusely, her baby was dead. Police at the scene handcuffed her and arrested her on suspicion of murder. Only then did they take her to hospital where she could get the urgent treatment she needed. In El Salvador, women who miscarry or suffer a still-birth during pregnancy are routinely suspected of having had an “abortion”. Abortion under any circumstance is a crime, even in cases of rape, incest, or where a woman’s life is at risk. This makes women afraid to seek help with pregnancy-related problems, leading inevitably to more preventable deaths.

Portrait of Teodora Vasquez at her prison in El Salvador. She had been sentenced for 30 years after having an stillbirth out of suspicions of having had an abortion.

By Linda Veazey, AIUSA Board Member 

In 1998, El Salvador outlawed abortion under any circumstances, including cases where the life or health of the woman is at risk; where pregnancies are the result of rape or incest; and in cases of severe fetal abnormalities. El Salvador’s total ban violates the human rights of thousands of women and girls.

In cases like Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, some women have even been sentenced to several decades in prison even though they did not have an abortion!  In 2008, Teodora was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide” after suffering a still-birth at work.  Amnesty found that Teodora was presumed guilty after she received an unfair trial in which her family could not afford effective legal representation. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Reaping the Harvest of Fear: The Obama Administration Deports Asylum Seekers

Central American migrants walk over the tracks to catch the train north, Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, Mexico, 28 June 2009.  Junio 28, 2009. Líneas férreas de Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, México. Migrantes centroamericanos en espera de la salida del tren hacia el norte. Migrants make their way toward Mexico’s northern border by foot, bus and most commonly on the top of a network of freight trains. Here migrants in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz state, board “La Bestia” (The Beast) also known as “El tren de la muerte” (The Death Train).

Central American migrants walk over the tracks to catch the train north, Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, Mexico, 28 June 2009.

By Esmeralda López and Adotei Akwei

Urias (a 32-year-old mother from Usulután Province, El Salvador) says ICE agents showed up at the door of her apartment in Atlanta at 11 a.m. Sunday, but she wouldn’t let them in. Then they called her and said they were actually there because her ankle monitor was broken. So she opened the door. Once inside, they told her to get her kids together and go with them. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Women are more than victims: they are peacemakers

Members of a support group for survivors of sexual violence create a circle with their hands, Bogotá, Colombia, March 2011. The letters on the hands of the women in a circle form the words "No al abuso sexual" (No to sexual abuse). They are a group of women who have been victims of sexual violence in the armed conflict in Colombia who meet regularly.

Members of a support group for survivors of sexual violence create a circle with their hands, Bogotá, Colombia, March 2011.
The letters on the hands of the women in a circle form the words “No al abuso sexual” (No to sexual abuse). They are a group of women who have been victims of sexual violence in the armed conflict in Colombia who meet regularly.

By: Janine Aguilera, Identity and Discrimination Unit Intern

Rape and sexual violence against women have been used as a tactic of war in Colombia since the beginnings of the armed conflict, more than 50 years.

Colombian women have been systematically raped or sexually assaulted for variety of purposes, including intimidation, humiliation, forced-displacement, extracting information, and rewarding soldiers. Rape and sexual violence have been also used as a strategy to assert social control, and a weapon against women’s rights defenders who raise their voices in support of land restitution. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Will you stand with Teodora?

caseTeodoraR

Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, one of 12 cases in Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign this fall, has been in prison since 2008 because she suffered a still-birth.  

Teodora still has 23 more years to serve out of a 30-year prison sentence, which is supported by El Salvador’s draconian abortion law. El Salvador has a total ban on abortion, meaning that abortion is illegal even if a woman’s or girl’s life or health is at risk, if the fetus is not viable, or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.
SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Amnesty International USA

Last November, we decided to send our sixth delegation of organizers and human rights observers to Ferguson. In response to requests from community members, AIUSA staff and members chose to go through training, to bear witness, to stand for accountability, and to lift up the voices of community members living their human rights.

These choices reflect a commitment to live our values in a way that recognizes that local human rights abuses are global human rights challenges. Amnesty sections, structures and offices from Hong Kong to Venezuela, and from Brazil to Turkey have made important changes to bring their work closer to the ground. Part of that shift for us here has meant a commitment to working more closely with communities who are most impacted by human rights abuses here at home. And by embarking on an ambitious body of human rights work, at AIUSA we also knew we would have to examine the ways our structure and staffing reflect that same commitment. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Mexico’s Journey of Death: ‘I opened the coffin and I knew it was not my daughter’

© AFP PHOTO/ JOSE Cabezas

© AFP PHOTO/ JOSE Cabezas

By Josefina Salomón, News Writer at Amnesty International in Mexico @josefinasalomon

It was the most difficult day of her life.

On the morning of 5 September 2010, Mirna Solórzano stood in front of a cargo plane in San Salvador’s airport, watching as soldiers unloaded a coffin. They said it contained the remains of her daughter, Glenda.

The 23 year old had been murdered alongside another 71 men and women in the Mexican town of San Fernando, in Tamaulipas, near the border with Texas, a few weeks earlier on 22 August.

Most were attempting to cross Mexico hoping to reach the USA and find jobs that would help them support their relatives back home. But the journey is known to be one of the most dangerous in the world, with those traveling routinely facing abductions, torture and death. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

El Salvador Must Do More to Protect LGBT Rights

EL SALVADOR-GAY-RIGHTS-MARCH

Following a wave of violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly has passed a law establishing increased penalties for hate crimes. Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Director for the Americas, emphasized that this law “should be a catalyst for a series of concrete measures to stop the alarming and growing wave of attacks against members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transexual community, who suffer grave threats and abuses on a daily basis.”

Some recent examples of violence against the LGBT community include: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Lucky To Be Alive – Despite Paraguay’s Restrictive Abortion Laws

Jandira Queiroz, activism and mobilization advisor at AI Brazil at the Paraguayan consulate, Rio de Janeiro, delivering signatures for pregnant 10-year-old gir'?s case. (Photo Credit: Anistia Internacional Brasil)

Jandira Queiroz, activism and mobilization advisor at AI Brazil at the Paraguayan consulate, Rio de Janeiro, delivering signatures for pregnant 10-year-old girs case. (Photo Credit: Anistia Internacional Brasil)

By Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

It was a situation almost too heart-wrenching to comprehend. In April this year came the news from Paraguay that “Mainumby” (not her real name) then a 10-year-old girl, had become pregnant after she was repeatedly raped, allegedly by her stepfather. The girl had been taken to hospital several times in a four-month-period before the pregnancy was discovered.

After finding out the horrific news, Mainumby’s mother, whose legal complaint against her daughter’s abuser had fallen on deaf ears, made a request to the authorities to allow her daughter to have an abortion. But the government refused it, and instead moved the girl into a home for young mothers.

The reason? Paraguay, like many other countries in Latin America, has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws – where terminating a pregnancy is only allowed if the life of the pregnant woman is at risk. Authorities decided this case did not fall under the exception, despite the risk that a pregnancy poses to such a young girl’s physical and mental health.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

From US to Brazil: Say Their Names

Demonstrators march through the Manguinhos favela to protest against police killings of blacks on August 22, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Every year, Brazil's police are responsible for around 2,000 deaths, one of the highest rates in the world. Many of the deaths in Rio involve blacks killed in favelas, also known as slums. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Demonstrators march through the Manguinhos favela to protest against police killings of blacks on August 22, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Every year, Brazil’s police are responsible for around 2,000 deaths, one of the highest rates in the world. Many of the deaths in Rio involve blacks killed in favelas, also known as slums. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA, and Atila Roque, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil

Here in the United States, we know the names. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Rekia Boyd. All African Americans killed by police.

But we don’t know the names of Eduardo de Jesus Ferreira — 10 years old and shot by police who mistook a phone for a gun. Or Alan de Souza Lima — who at 15 was filming his friends laughing and joking and unwittingly captured his own death seconds later in a hail of bullets. Or Claudia da Silva Ferreira, a 38-year-old mother who was wounded in a police shootout, tossed out of the unsecured back door of a police vehicle and fatally dragged 1,000 feet.

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It’s Time for Chile to Change Its Restrictive Abortion Laws

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By Leah Schmidt, Identity and Discrimination Unit, Amnesty International USA

In July 2013, an 11-year-old girl became pregnant after having been raped repeatedly for two years by her stepfather. However, ending the pregnancy was not an option for her. In Chile, where she lives, abortion is outlawed in all cases, even in cases of rape and even for children. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST