Free Teresa: Demand justice for Salvadoran woman in jail for miscarriage

Teresa sought emergency medical care after a miscarriage. At the hospital, she was accused of having an abortion, then charged with “aggravated homicide.” Now, four years into her 40-year sentence, she’s still being denied treatment for a painful kidney infection. If left untreated, she could die—leaving her 10-year-old son without a mother.

Right now, a judge is reviewing her case. Add your name to urge him to uphold justice and protect Teresa’s human rights in his decision.

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Re: Uphold justice and protect the human rights of Marķa Teresa Rivera

Honorable Martin Rogel Zepeda,

We are writing to express our deep concern about the situation of Marķa Teresa Rivera, who was unjustly sentenced to 40 years in prison for "aggravated homicide" following an obstetric emergency. Like 14 other Salvadoran women currently being deprived of liberty, Marķa Teresa sought medical care during a pregnancy-related health emergency, and without any supporting evidence, was swiftly convicted of murder.

Now, Marķa Teresa is in severe pain on a daily basis due to a kidney infection--a condition that may have caused the loss of her pregnancy in the first place. For the months leading up to Marķa Teresa's miscarriage, she repeatedly went to the E.R. to receive treatment for kidney and ear infections. Until the day of her emergency, Marķa had no idea she was pregnant, and no doctors ever told her about this possibility. The day of her miscarriage, she was taken straight from the hospital to prison. Tragically, Maria Teresa has received no medical attention at all since she was detained in 2011.

Without proper medical care, Marķa Teresa could face a tragedy similar to Manuela, another Salvadoran woman whose undetected cancer caused her to have an obstetric emergency. In 2008, following her miscarriage, Marķa Teresa was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder. While incarcerated, she did not receive the appropriate treatment for her advanced Hodgkin's Lymphoma and in 2010, she died in prison, leaving behind her two young children.

The human rights violations faced by Manuela, Marķa Teresa, and other women deprived of liberty due to obstetric emergencies are well documented and have been denounced by numerous international NGOs and human rights bodies. In 2015, seven UN special rapporteurs issued a joint statement condemning the numerous human rights violations that occur when women are prosecuted, imprisoned and convicted for obstetric emergencies. Just this week, the State Department of the United States expressed "serious concerns" about the criminal penalties faced by Marķa Teresa and other women imprisoned following obstetric emergencies.


We ask that during your review of Marķa Teresa's case you take into account the miscarriage of justice in her case, the discrimination she faced as a poor woman, and the special urgency presented by her critical health status. We respectfully ask that you take advantage of this unique opportunity to provide justice for Marķa Teresa and uphold her fundamental human rights to health and bodily integrity, equality before the law and non-discrimination, freedom from gender-based violence, and judicial protection in your decision.

Thank you for your attention to this matter,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]