Conservative politicians in El Salvador want to send women to prison
for up to 50 years for having an abortion. This means girls who have
been raped and get an abortion could spend more time in jail than the
man who raped them.
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Salvador’s Congress: Abortion is not a crime. It's a right. En Español
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Re: Reject ARENA's proposal to increase abortion penalties to 30-50 years
Honorable Members of the Salvadoran Congress,
We're writing to express our deep concern over the proposal by ARENA to increase abortion penalties for women to 30-50 years in El Salvador's penal code. It's cruel, inhumane, and would disproportionately harm girls and poor women. We call on you to reject this proposal and instead stand up for the health and rights of women and girls.
Increasing abortion penalties would be devastating for teenage girls in El Salvador. A staggering 67% of sexual violence victims are girls under 17 years old, and most of these victims are between 10 and 14 years old, contributing to the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the world. With absolutely no options for safely ending their pregnancy, girls often risk their lives seeking unsafe, illegal abortions--and face prison time if they're caught. This tragic reality leads many pregnant teens to commit suicide--the cause of three in every eight maternal deaths in the country. If ARENA's proposal passes, it would make a desperate situation for girls even worse. Women living in situations of poverty will also bear the brunt of increased abortion penalties. Right now, dozens of women are wrongfully imprisoned on charges of homicide due to El Salvador's abortion law. Each of them sought health care at a public hospital during an obstetric emergency, was accused of having an abortion, and was swiftly convicted of homicide. A judge recently overturned the conviction of Maria Teresa Rivera, who served four years in jail after an obstetric emergency, due to lack of evidence of any wrongdoing. ARENA's proposal would dissuade women like Maria Teresa from seeking life-saving care and deter health care providers from treating them for fear of punishment. It would also fast-track wrongful convictions of women who suffer from obstetric emergencies. El Salvador's total criminalization of abortion violates women's internationally established right to be free from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. It goes directly against the recommendations of many United Nations human rights bodies and special rapporteurs, which have called on El Salvador to decriminalize abortion. The State Department of the United States expressed "serious concerns" this year about the criminal penalties faced by women imprisoned for obstetric emergencies. In July, members of the United States Congress Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Norma J. Torres issued a statement calling ARENA's proposal "cruel and unjust," saying it "violates every Salvadoran woman's most basic rights of personal freedom and due process."
It is clear that this proposal would harm women and girls in El Salvador already in vulnerable situations. We urge you to reject harsher penalties for abortion and support efforts to lift the total abortion ban. The health and human rights of millions of women and girls are at stake.
Thank you for your attention to this matter, [Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State ZIP]
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