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Rape Victim Sentenced To Jail For Stillbirth (Photos)

| by Michael Doherty

A young rape victim from El Salvador has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for having a stillbirth.

Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz, 19, was convicted for failing to seek prenatal care for her fetus, which the prosecution equated to murder, The Guardian reports.

Hernandez had reportedly been sexually assaulted by a gang member more than once over the course of several months, in a nonconsensual sexual relationship. The teen said she hadn't realized she was pregnant until she became ill and gave birth in a bathroom at school.

The fetus died before or shortly after it was born, according to medical experts.

The prosecutor in the case argued that Hernandez had intentionally not sought prenatal care, and threw the baby into a toilet with the intention of killing the child. The judge suggested Hernandez's mother may be culpable as well.

Abortion is illegal in El Salvador, and although miscarriage and stillbirth are not technically outlawed, 17 women were imprisoned for miscarriages from 1999 to 2011, according to BuzzFeed. Women have been charged with "aggravated homicide" of the fetus for a stillbirth or miscarriage.

A 2015 report from human rights organization Amnesty International said at least 19 women in the country were in prison for crimes related to abortion, although some have since been freed.

"El Salvador's anti-abortion law is causing nothing but pain and suffering to countless women and girls and their families," said Erika Guevara-Rosas, the director for the Americas at Amnesty International, according to Al Jazeera. "It goes against human rights and it has no place in the country or anywhere."

Hernandez's lawyer, Dennis Munoz, called the judge's decision unjust. The young woman's attorneys are reported to be planning to appeal the ruling.

"The judge's verdict doesn't reflect the evidence presented in court," Munoz said. "It's a decision based on morality, not the law or justice."

"Evelyn has been charged unfairly," said Munoz.

In 2017, a bill was introduced that would change the country's abortion law to allow abortion in cases of rape, or where the mother's health was in danger. The bill is currently in committee, and it is unclear if it will make it to the country's parliament.

A group of experts from the United Nations called on El Salvador to allow abortion in certain cases in May, saying, "The criminalisation of the termination of pregnancy imposes an intolerable cost on the women, their families and the society."

"It restricts women's access to sexual and reproductive health services and information," said the experts.

Sources: The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Al Jazeera / Photo Credit: Joe Gratz/Flickr, Kristen Thompson/Twitter via BuzzFeed, Agrupacion Ciudadana via BuzzFeed

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