A sign supporting changing the abortion laws. It reads:
Sex education to DECIDE.
Contraceptives to NOT ABORT.
Legal abortion to NOT DIE.
Photograph from http://www.feministas.org

A recent court case in El Salvador has again highlighted the restrictive abortion laws in the country. Imelda Cortez, 20, is facing charges of attempting to abort her unborn child. She became pregnant at 18 after being raped by her stepfather. Her baby girl was born healthy, however she is accused of intentionally trying to induce an abortion.

Her stepfather has been convicted of raping a minor and is currently serving a prison sentence. This particular case has garnered so much attention because a victim of sexual assault is now being treated as a criminal, not the victim she is. The assaults began when Imelda was just 11 years of age. She is now facing years in prison.

In El Salvador there is a total ban on abortion in any circumstances. This includes pregnancies coming from rape, or cases where the mother’s life is in danger. As a result of this, pregnancies that end in miscarriage or stillbirth are met with suspicion. There are currently 25 women in prison accused of inducing abortions.

The United Nations has called on the country to update the abortion laws and to review the cases of the women currently in prison. Campaigners are hopeful that the recent changes in abortion laws in South American countries will lead to changes in El Salvador. Chile is often cited as an example in debates. Last year the country changed their laws and abortion is now legal in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, when the foetus will not survive the pregnancy, and in cases of rape.

-Michelle O’Brien
Contributing Writer
Girl Museum Inc.

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