On 19 August 2019, El Salvador’s authorities declared Evelyn Hernández innocent of ‘homicide’, after losing her pregnancy in 2016.
Evelyn had been imprisoned under El Salvador’s draconian anti-abortion laws and sentenced to 30 years in prison for the obstetric emergency. This is the first time such a sentence has been overruled in a re-trial.
In April 2016, Evelyn Hernández, 21, suffered an obstetric emergency in her home in El Salvador which resulted in the loss of her pregnancy.
Once at the hospital, staff reported her to the police. She was arrested and later sentenced to 30 years in prison for ‘aggravated homicide’ in 2017.
But during the re-trial, the judge declared Evelyn innocent, stating that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that she had committed a crime.
Reproductive rights in El Salvador
Since 1998, El Salvador has criminalised abortion in all circumstances, even when the pregnancy is the result of rape, or when the life or health of the pregnant woman or girl is at risk.
Women like Evelyn who suffer obstetric emergencies are often wrongly convicted of homicide under these laws. According to Amnesty International’s partner organisations, at least 19 women are currently in prison or continue to face charges in these circumstances.
Many women and girls have lost their lives or have suffered permanent injury due to the abortion ban, as it forces them to resort to unsafe, secret abortions – or to carry a pregnancy to term even when it puts their life and health at risk.
Amnesty has documented the case of a nine-year old girl who fell pregnant as a result of abuse and was forced to carry her pregnancy to term, putting her life at risk.
How did Amnesty respond?
Nearly 12,000 Australians took action calling for Evelyn’s release in 2017.
In 2018 Amnesty delivered a petition with 268,630 signatures from people in 60 countries calling for El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly to decriminalise abortion in cases of rape; sexual abuse of a minor; when the health or life of the pregnant person is at risk; or in cases of fatal fetal diagnosis.
El Salvador’s public prosecutor’s office has appealed the ruling that absolved Evelyn Hernández of charges against her. The public prosecutor’s office must immediately end this appeal, and ensure that neither Evelyn, nor any other woman, be deprived of their freedom again.
It’s time for El Salvador to end their criminalisation of abortion. Amnesty International will continue to rally against El Salvador’s total abortion ban and ensure the rights of women and girls are protected.