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February 1, 2018

NAPW Supports El Salvadoran Women and Girls' Human Rights!

NAPW and NYU Law School's Reproductive Justice Clinic, along with more than twenty leading international human rights and public health experts, submitted an amicus (friend of the court) brief to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the "Commission") in support of Manuela, a woman who died in prison after being convicted under El Salvador's total abortion ban. NAPW strongly opposes this dangerous and life threatening criminal regime.

The abortion ban undermines the health of all pregnant people in El Salvador.

In the late 1990's, El Salvador amended its laws to outlaw abortion under all circumstances allowing the criminal prosecution of any woman or girl suspected of having the procedure. Under this system, doctors and other medical professionals face up to twelve years in prison if suspected of assisting a woman, creating an environment that encourages doctors to deliver their own patients to law enforcement and to be the primary source of evidence against them - such as in the case of Manuela.

Manuela, a mother of two children, lived in the rural countryside of Morazan, El Salvador. In February of 2008, in the seventh month of her pregnancy, she suffered a serious fall and was taken to the hospital after experiencing a miscarriage at home that had left her unconscious and bleeding. At the hospital, instead of receiving the care and compassion she required, Manuela was confronted by a hostile treating physician who accused her of having induced an abortion and called the police. Manuela was later prosecuted and convicted of aggravated homicide and sentenced to thirty years in prison. Manuela's health continued to decline in prison, and in April of 2010, less than two years after her conviction and while still in the custody of the Salvadoran state, Manuela passed away.

El Salvador's ban violates women and girls' human rights to health, privacy, and dignity.

Manuela's family filed a case in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging that El Salvador violated their daughter's and their own human rights. In March of 2017, the Commission determined the case has merit, and referred the matter for a full hearing. This amicus brief highlights the particularly detrimental impact of the ban on women and girls, like Manuela, who live in poverty in rural parts of El Salvador with limited access to healthcare while also being the most likely to be prosecuted under this law.

NAPW strongly urges the Commission to find that El Salvador violated its international obligations and recommend that El Salvador immediately repeal this injurious law and work to ensure that all women and girls have access to confidential and comprehensive healthcare.

To read the amicus brief submitted by NAPW, NYU Law School's Reproductive Justice Clinic and more than twenty leading international human rights and public health experts, please click here.