Hundreds of feminists and people active in social movements marched through the streets of San Salvador to call on El Salvador’s Legislative Assembyu to easy the country’s total ban on abortion.
Although therapeutic abortions were once legal in El Salvador, a right-wing legislature in 1997 passed a total ban from conception, making El Salvador today one of only six country’s worldwide with a complete ban on abortion.
The criminalization of abortion has “imposed serious consequences on the health and lives of women and young girls, generating everything from stigmatization to unjust criminalization.” Even in life-threatening pregnancies in which the fetus has no chance of survival, doctors are unable to terminate the pregancy. Frequently, women who experience miscarraige or still-birth are unjustly convicted of abortion or even murder.
Class prejudice and misogynist attitudes often violate a woman’s legal rights. Virtually all women convicted of abortion or feticide are impoverished, reliant on the public healthcare system, and, in many cases, have limited formal education.
Over ten percent of pregancies are of girls aged 10 to 14, after which they are withdrawn from school and made responsible for domestic duties.
In recent years, the Salvadoran feminist movement has increased organizing and mobilizing to challenge the country’s draconian abortion law. But feminist groups are up against anti-choice messaging propagated through the country’s churches and a well-funded lobby.
Julia Regina de Cardenal, the wife of one of El Salvador’s wealthiest businessmen, is promoting a bill through her organization “Yes to Life” in response to the feminist movement’s growing success that increases the penalty for abortion to 50 years in prison from the current 8 years.
In response feminist and FMLN legislator, Lorena Peña, supported by all 31 FMLN legislators in the Legislative Assembly, introduced legislation to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, an unviable fetus, and when the mother’s life is at risk.
To get the reform approved, massive pressure is needed to convince twelve legislators to join the 31 FMLN legislators. This will be an uphill battle, as ARENA and the Christian Democrat parties have publicly stated that they will vote against it.
Yet according to Sara García from the Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion), reproductive rights organizations have “great expectations,” and an objective going forward is to ensure the first ever “serious and scientific debate” in the Legislative Assembly about abortion and the inhumane consequences of its criminalization.
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