“We are many, and we will not rest until there are no more femicides, until the decriminalization of abortion is not just a dream.” ~ youth activist on women’s and girls’ rights, Interview with Amnesty International, March 2014
Every year, thousands of women and girls in El Salvador are denied their rights and choices by El Salvador’s total ban on abortion and its criminalization. All women and girls, regardless of their reasons for seeking an abortion, are prohibited from doing so. Women and girls whose health or lives are at risk or those who have been raped are denied this essential health service. Those with limited financial resources cannot access quality reproductive health information or maternal health care, and there is a lack of sexuality education and contraception for girls and young women. These restrictions are serious violations of the human rights of women and girls and must be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
Due to the criminalization of abortion in all circumstances, women and girls who are carrying an unwanted pregnancy are confronted with two options: commit a crime by terminating the pregnancy, or continue with the unwanted pregnancy. Both options have life-long and potentially devastating implications. The problem is exacerbated by the failure to provide comprehensive sexuality education in the country’s education system, and by the difficulty faced by young people, in particular, in obtaining quality, modern contraception.
El Salvador’s 1997 law the prohibiting all forms of abortion made it a criminal offence for a woman to have an abortion, or for anyone to assist her in procuring or carrying out an abortion. Women found guilty of terminating their pregnancies may be sentenced to long jail terms.
The anti-abortion law has created suspicion and discrimination against women. Some pregnant women who arrive at hospital suffering blood loss or other problems due to miscarriage or botched abortions face criminal prosecution. They can find themselves being convicted of serious offences such as homicide and sentenced to long prison terms on weak or inconclusive evidence, often following flawed trials.
With this report, Amnesty International focuses on the impact of El Salvador’s ban on abortion and the underlying and intersecting factors which have influenced the development and impact of this discriminatory legislation, and examines the seriousness of the resulting human rights violations. The report concludes with a series of detailed recommendations, calling on the Salvadoran authorities to fulfill their international obligations to ensure respect for women and girls’ human rights, without prejudice or discrimination.