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Woman sentenced to 30 years in prison for abortion in El Salvador, group says

The impact of El Salvador's abortion ban
CBS News documentary explores the impact of El Salvador's abortion ban 08:40

A court in El Salvador has sentenced a woman who suffered an obstetric emergency that ended her pregnancy to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide, according to a nongovernmental organization assisting in her defense.

The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion said in a statement Tuesday that a woman they identified only as "Esme" was sentenced Monday. The woman had already been in pre-trial detention for two years following her arrest when she sought medical care in a public hospital.

"The judge acted with partiality, giving greater weight to the version offered by the Attorney General's Office, which was loaded with stigmas and gender stereotypes," the group said. They said they would appeal.

The sentence could not be immediately confirmed because the courts were closed.

El Salvador maintains a total ban on abortion and a number of women have been arrested and sentenced to prison after suffering apparent miscarriages that were reported to authorities.

In the past two decades, nearly 180 women have been prosecuted. Since 2009, the government has released 64 of them. Just since December, eight women serving long prison sentences have had those sentences commuted.

Activists say at least 17 Salvadoran women have been unjustly convicted and imprisoned following obstetric emergencies and who have been at the center of a campaign against El Salvador's absolute law against abortions. Many say they suffered miscarriages.

CBS News told some of their stories in the documentary "Jailed for Abortion in El Salvador." 

Last year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that El Salvador's government had violated the rights of a woman identified as Manuela who was arrested in 2008 on charges of provoking an abortion and died in 2010 while in custody, leaving two children.

"Sometimes abortion isn't voluntary," Manuela's oldest son, Thomas, told CBS News in 2019. "My mother was sick."

"These poor women need help," Manuela's mother said. "I don't want them to suffer like my daughter did. It's the youth, the women, who need to fight."

El Salvador Abortion
Morena Herrera, of the Citizen's Group for the Depenalization of Abortion, far left, and Sara Garcia, of the same organization, far right, stand on the ends of four women, from left, Elsy, Kenia, Evelyn and Karen, as they hold a scarf with the face of Manuela, a mother of two children who was arrested in 2008 on charges of provoking an abortion and died in 2010 while in custody, during the press conference in San Salvador, El Salvador, Feb. 22, 2022.  Salvador Melendez / AP
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