The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

El Salvador:
Jailing Women for Miscarriage

Apr 27, 2015

Recently, women’s rights groups were finally able to force El Salvador’s Supreme Court and Legislative Assembly to release Guadalupe Vásquez after eight years of imprisonment.

Vásquez was raped by a neighbor of the house where she worked as a maid. She became pregnant at 17, but wanted to keep the baby. Later, during her pregnancy, she started to bleed, but her employer wouldn't let her leave the house to get medical care. The baby died shortly after he was born. When the bleeding continued, her employer sent her to a hospital, saying she did not want to "deal with two dead in my house." Vasquez passed out, and when she woke up, she was handcuffed to the bed at a state hospital. The police had arrested her.

El Salvador has an absolute ban on abortion, with no exception, including the cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s health. Vásquez’s prosecutor sought a jail sentence of 75 years, the maximum at the time. After two brief hearings, the court sentenced her to 30 years for homicide.

Her rapist went free.

The women’s rights groups identified 17 similar cases. All the women involved are young and poor and were convicted for killing babies who were stillborn or died through miscarriages or for reasons unknown.

In El Salvador, medical staff are required to report suspected abortions to the police. However, as one activist, Rosa María Hernández explained, a wealthier woman can leave the country to have an abortion, or go to a private clinic that may not report her. Most working women, who are poor, don’t have such options. She adds: "If you are poor and want an abortion, you are waiting for jail or death."

The rich use morality to suppress workers, and above all, working class women.