Worldwide Activism Brings Justice for Maria Teresa Rivera!

"Isabel and "Ruth" (not their real name) are the mother in law and neighbor of María Teresa Rivera, one of "Las 17" women who are imprisoned in El Salvador with charges of "aggravated homicides" under the suspicion of having had an abortion.
“Isabel and “Ruth” (not their real name) are the mother in law and neighbor of María Teresa Rivera, one of “Las 17” women who are imprisoned in El Salvador with charges of “aggravated homicides” under the suspicion of having had an abortion.

“Today, we celebrate Teresa’s freedom, her joy, and her tears upon reuniting with her ten-year-old son. This is the result of the actions in solidarity taken by thousands of people and various organizations in El Salvador and other countries.”
The Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion in El Salvador

On Friday, May 20, a Salvadoran Court held a resentencing hearing for Maria Teresa Rivera, a woman who was serving a 40-year prison term for allegedly killing her newborn child. Amnesty International, along with many organizations around the world, argued that the evidence against her did not prove that she was guilty and that she had been convicted as the result of the Salvadoran authorities zeal to prosecute women suspected of having an abortion—including poor women who suffered still births or miscarriages. Furthermore, these women did not receive fair trials because of their lack of economic resources.

That morning, a Salvadoran newspaper reported that the Attorney General of the Republic not only continued to insist on Maria Teresa’s guilt—he was adamantly against any reduction of her sentence. 

In this context, the best outcome that I thought possible was for Maria Teresa’s sentence to be reduced to time served. I was therefore overjoyed to find out that the judge ruled that the evidence in the case did not support her conviction. After five years of hardship for Maria Teresa and her family, justice has finally been served! As the Citizens’ Group stated, this outcome was the result of the actions taken by thousands of people around the world.

In reaction to the judge’s decision, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said that Maria Teresa’s “release must be a catalyst for change in El Salvador, where dozens of women are put in prison because of an utterly ridiculous anti-abortion law which does nothing but put the lives of thousands of women and girls in danger.”

One such woman is Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, who was a focus case for Amnesty International’s 2015 Write for Rights campaign. After Teodora called for medical help because she felt severe pain, she went into labor and lost consciousness. When she woke up, she was bleeding heavily and her baby was dead and she was arrested for murder. In 2008, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide” following a trial that Amnesty International has determined was unfair.

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.

Please urge El Salvador’s Minister of Justice to Call on the Minister of Justice to release Teodora, and immediately and impartially review the sentences of all women still in jail for pregnancy-related issues:

Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde
Ministro de Justicia y Seguridad Pública
17 Avenida Norte, Complejo Plan Maestro, Edificio B1, nivel 1
Alamenda Juan Pablo II
San Salvador, El Salvador
Fax +503 2281 5959
Email: [email protected]

Please also urge El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly to reverse the total ban on abortions that has endangered the lives of thousands of women and girls and resulted in the unjust imprisonment of women such as Teodora and Maria Teresa:

Members of the Legislative Assembly
Apartado postal 1852
Correos de El Salvador-Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador, El Salvador

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