A 19-year-old rape victim in El Salvador is being sent to prison because she delivered a stillborn
In El Salvador, 19-year-old Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz, a high school student and survivor of multiple rapes, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for delivering a stillborn baby. She was arrested at a hospital in April 2016 on suspicion of having an abortion — a procedure that’s been totally illegal in El Salvador for the last 20 years — after giving birth in an outhouse at her home, then fainting from massive blood loss.
After an investigation, it was determined that Hernandez had not attempted to procure an abortion — but she wasn’t freed. Instead, the charges against her were changed to aggravated homicide, with prosecutors arguing that her failure to seek out medical care during her pregnancy amounted to murder.
Hernandez, though, said she didn’t know she was pregnant until after she’d given birth and awoke in the hospital; she’d had intermittent bleeding throughout the pregnancy, and thought only that she was experiencing intense stomach pain during contractions.
Hernandez had been in a forced sexual relationship with a suspected gang member, subjected to repeated rapes she never reported to authorities because she was afraid of the consequences. She became pregnant as a result of these rapes.
The judge who presided over the case sided with prosecutors, agreeing with the claim that Hernandez had thrown the baby in the toilet after giving birth with the intention to kill him. Doctors, meanwhile, were unable to determine whether or not the baby died in utero or in the moments after he was delivered.
According to a report from the BBC, Hernandez said in court, “I did not want to kill my son.”
Women’s reproduction is heavily policed in El Salvador, one of only six countries in the world with a total ban on abortion. Under El Salvador’s anti-abortion law, women can be charged with murder for having miscarriages and suffering stillbirths. Between 2000 and 2014, 147 women were charged with crimes under the anti-abortion law, according to the El Salvador-based group Alliance for Women’s Health and Life.
“El Salvador’s anti-abortion law is causing nothing but pain and suffering to countless women and girls and their families,” said Amnesty’s Americas director, Erika Guevara-Rosas, in a statement. “It goes against human rights and it has no place in the country or anywhere.”