El Salvador is responsible for the death of a woman who was jailed after having a miscarriage

El Salvador Is Responsible For The Death Of A Woman Who Was Jailed After Having A Miscarriage

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that El Salvador is responsible for the death of Manuela, a woman who was jailed in 2008 for killing her baby when she suffered a miscarriage. The ruling means that El Salvador will need to implement reforms that prevent pregnant women from being imprisoned and guarantee family planning and the prevention of pregnancy-related risks.

On Tuesday, the high court in the USA ruled on extreme abortion laws in El Salvador and their practices with a woman who had a miscarriage. Women rights activists believe this could allow a change across the region.

Despite abortion being illegal since 1998, many women in El Salvador that suffered obstetric emergencies will be jailed if their injuries or death is seen to be the result of the miscarriage.

Read: Women In The US Are Being Jailed For Having Miscarriages

After Manuela, a pregnant woman in El Salvador miscarried and was accused of murder, she died from cancer and left her two children orphaned. She was convicted and sentenced to thirty years in prison. Staff at the hospital failed to promptly treat her for miscarriage symptoms during an initial visit and subjected her to verbal abuse as well as accusing her of having an abortion. Her death has been ruled as a state-sponsored homicide under international law.

“There is no doubt that Manuela suffered an obstetric emergency,” the landmark court ruling stated. “Such situations, as they are medical conditions, cannot lead to a criminal sanction.”

The court also ruled that El Salvador State must pay reparations to Manuela’s family, develop comprehensive sexual education policies, and ensure doctor-patient communication confidentiality.

“The Inter-American Court has done justice by recognising Manuela was another victim of an unjust legal context that originates in the absolute prohibition of abortion,” said Morena Herrera, at the Feminist Collective for Local Development, one of the parties in the case supporting Manuela’s family.

“Manuela’s story is a sad one, but it represents a change and becomes a path of justice and hope for all women in Latin America and the Caribbean who are criminalised for obstetric events.”

According to activists, this occurrence would create sweeping change in most other countries in the region that respected the Inter-American Court.

Featured image: Marvin Recinos/AFP/Getty

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