El Salvador pardons woman convicted for having abortion; woman claims she miscarried

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Human rights activists on Thursday hailed a decision by El Salvador's congress to pardon a young woman who was convicted of killing her child after she said she suffered a miscarriage.

The pardon was approved by 43 of the 84 members of the Legislative Assembly, with the 26 representatives of the conservative Republican Nationalist Alliance voting no and the rest abstaining.

"With this decision, El Salvador has undone a terrible injustice," said Erika Guevara-Rosas, the Americas director for Amnesty International. She said the woman should never have been imprisoned in the first place.

The decision "must mark a turning point for El Salvador's retrograde laws, which punish women and girls when having medical complications during their pregnancies," Guevara-Rosas said.

Salvadoran law prohibits all abortions, including in the case of rape or when a woman's life is in danger.

The woman pardoned Wednesday was an 18-year-old domestic worker when she says she was raped and hid her pregnancy to avoid losing her job. She has said she miscarried at her place of work and the fetus was stillborn.

When the woman sought treatment for bleeding at a hospital, a doctor alerted authorities and she was detained on suspicion of having had an abortion.

Prosecutors charged her with aggravated homicide, and she was sentenced in 2007 to 30 years in prison despite a forensic medical report that found the cause of death could not be determined and there was no evidence of trauma on the body.

Lawyer Denis Muñoz said there was never any proof that the woman had harmed the fetus.

This week's pardon came after the country's Supreme Court ruled there was reasonable doubt in the case.

Guevara-Rosas said the woman was still behind bars and it could take a few weeks for her release to be processed.

The case was pressed by a movement known as A Flower for the 17, a reference to the number of Salvadoran women convicted of homicide in similar cases.

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