LIFESTYLE

Case of woman sentenced to 8 years for alleged abortion causes uproar in Argentina

  • MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 29:  A placard reads 'No to abortion' during a church backed anti-abortion demonstration on March 29, 2009 in Madrid, Spain. A new abortion proposal by Spain's Socialist government has angered the conservative clergy breaking a delicate truce between anti-abortion activists and women's groups in Catholic Spain. The new abortion law is expected to be approved by parliament before the summer which would allow the procedure up to 22 weeks with a doctor's certificate.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

    MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 29: A placard reads 'No to abortion' during a church backed anti-abortion demonstration on March 29, 2009 in Madrid, Spain. A new abortion proposal by Spain's Socialist government has angered the conservative clergy breaking a delicate truce between anti-abortion activists and women's groups in Catholic Spain. The new abortion law is expected to be approved by parliament before the summer which would allow the procedure up to 22 weeks with a doctor's certificate. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)  (2009 Getty Images)

  • BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 14:  Surgeons at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham conduct an operation on June 14, 2006, Birmingham, England. Senior managers of the NHS have said that the organisation needs to become more open in the future. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

    BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 14: Surgeons at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham conduct an operation on June 14, 2006, Birmingham, England. Senior managers of the NHS have said that the organisation needs to become more open in the future. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)  (2006 Getty Images)

Belén’s life changed overnight.

On March 21, 2014 at 3.50 a.m., Belén went to a state hospital in San Miguel de Tucumán, provincial capital in Northern Argentina, suffering abdominal pains and vaginal bleeding. She was then 25-year-old. She says she didn’t know she was 22 weeks pregnant until that moment.

Belén was transferred to the gynecology ward. A doctor, she said, discovered she was having a miscarriage. Moments later, the hospital staff found a fetus in a bathroom and claimed it was Belen’s. Human rights activists say there was no physical evidence that she was linked with the contents. 

“They didn’t analyze the DNA to establish a connection with Belén,” Soledad Deza, her attorney, told Fox News Latino.

Hospital staff called police and accused her of inducing an abortion. In Argentina, Pope Francis’ homeland, abortion is against the law except when the pregnancy involves a danger to the woman’s life or health or when pregnancies are the consequence of rape, incest and other forms of abuse. 

She was eventually found guilty of aggravated homicide and sentenced to eight years in prison. She still insists she had a miscarriage.

Her case has ignited a rallying cry all across Argentina. It has prompted so much outrage that human rights organization from across the world have come to her defense. Some are even trying to become involved in her legal case.

Human rights groups filed a request to the Tucumán Supreme Court to become “amicus curiae” in the ongoing campaign to release Belén. “Amicus curiae,” her lawyer explained, are people with close connections to individuals involved in a court case who can submit arguments and present evidence to the judiciary to influence its decision.

Deza, who works with IWHC partner Catholics for the Right to Decide (CDD)-Argentina, said: “Belén has been connected with the so-called found fetus, despite the fact that according to the evidence the fetus was found before she entered the hospital and despite considerable confusion in the files over whether there were one, two or several fetuses, whether it was a male or female fetus or whether it belonged to someone else.”

Amnesty International has called the prosecution “absurd” and alleges it was conducted on the basis of “false evidence.” In a recent report on civil and political rights in the country, the United Nations Human Rights Council called on Argentina to extend reproductive rights, “consider the decriminalization of abortion” and demanded Belén’s “immediate release” from prison.

Deza visits Belén one or two times per week in the prison. She’s single. Her mother and one of her sisters also visit her. Now, the lawyer said, “she feels stronger and thrilled thanks to the national and international campaign for justice. We are calling on Argentinian authorities to free Belén’s immediately and to drop the charges against her for suffering a miscarriage.”

Belén is the name being used to protect her identity.

On August 12, there will be marches across the whole country urging for her release.

Belén, Deza said, “did not wake up of the nightmare yet.”

Jorge Elías is an Argentine journalist, radio host and columnist in Radio Continental and TV host in Televisión Pública Argentina. He is also the director of El Ínterin, an international news and analysis website. He can be followed on Twitter at @JorgeEliasInter.

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