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Health Hum Rights. 2017 Jun;19(1):81-93.

Pregnancy and the 40-Year Prison Sentence: How "Abortion Is Murder" Became Institutionalized in the Salvadoran Judicial System.

Author information

1
Professor of sociology at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States.
2
Licenciado, is an attorney at the Fiscal General, San Salvador, El Salvador.

Abstract

Using the case of El Salvador, this article demonstrates how the anti-abortion catchphrase "abortion is murder" can become embedded in the legal practice of state judicial systems. In the 1990s, a powerful anti-abortion movement in El Salvador resulted in a new legal context that outlawed abortion in all circumstances, discouraged mobilization for abortion rights, and encouraged the prosecution of reproduction-related "crimes." Within this context, Salvadoran women initially charged with the crime of abortion were convicted of "aggravated homicide" and sentenced to up to 40 years in prison. Court documents suggest that many of these women had not undergone abortions, but had suffered naturally occurring stillbirths late in their pregnancies. Through analysis of newspaper articles and court cases, this article documents how El Salvador came to prosecute obstetrical emergencies as "murder," and concludes that activism on behalf of abortion rights is central to protecting poor pregnant women from prosecution for reproduction-related "crimes."

PMID:
28630543
PMCID:
PMC5473040
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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