Mery, 27, ended up in hospital after suffering complications from a self-induced abortion seven months ago. Hospital staff diagnosed her with mental health problems and also reported her to the police, the Center for Reproductive Rights said.
In August, she was sentenced to two years in prison for inducing an abortion under
“Many women who arrive in hospital suffering miscarriages are often accused of having abortions. They end up having issues with the law and are shackled to hospital beds.”
Behind bars, Mery – a pseudonym to protect her identity - attempted suicide by slitting her wrists with a rusty nail, and was sent to a psychiatric ward where she now lies handcuffed in a hospital bed under the watch of armed policemen.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is campaigning on the woman’s behalf, says unless the judge’s decision is repealed, she will be released from the hospital’s psychiatric ward and returned to prison.
IMPRISONED FOR MISCARRIAGE
At hospitals across
Since abortion was made illegal in
In 2005, another Salvadoran, Sonia Tabora, was sentenced to 30 years for murder.
When Sonia was seven months pregnant, she went into premature labour. Her family found her bleeding heavily and took her to a health centre where she gave birth to a stillborn baby.
Sonia was then falsely accused of inducing an abortion and spent more than seven years in prison before finally being released in August.
Most young women who have been jailed for having abortions, or falsely accused of aborting in
Wealthier women wanting an abortion can pay private, trained doctors to perform the procedure and they can also travel abroad, often to the
But poor women don’t have such luxury. Instead, they are more likely to undergo dangerous backstreet abortions or resort to using dangerous methods to abort - from coat hangers, knitting needles to detergents.
The Roman Catholic Church’s lingering grip on Latin American politics, its influence among society and public condemnation of abortion, are all factors behind the region’s stringent abortion laws – as are the region’s patriarchal view.
“Restricting access to abortion is rooted in traditional patriarchal values perpetuated by laws, governments, judicial systems and religions that aim to control women’s reproductive function and sexuality,” the UK-based Central America Women's Network (CAWN) said in a recent report.
Christian groups working in Central America also play a role in spreading anti-abortion views, the Center for Reproductive Rights’
“It’s not just the Catholic Church. It’s also U.S.-based Christian churches, like evangelicals, doing missionary work in
“They spread the message that women’s sexuality is a sin and that reproductive rights are not human rights.”
“DISDAIN TOWARDS WOMEN”
Despite the region’s tough abortion laws, there has not been a drop in abortion rates.
In fact, they’ve had the opposite effect.
According to a 2008 study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute, Latin America has one of the world’s highest abortion rates, with more than 30 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, compared to 12 per 1,000 in
Latin American women also have more unsafe abortions per capita than women in any other region - around four million women a year – WHO estimates.
Botched abortions are a leading cause of maternal death in
According to WHO, around 47,000 women die from botched abortions each year, accounting for almost 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide.
It boils down to a lack of women’s rights.
“The underlying causes of morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion today are not blood loss and infection but, rather, apathy and disdain toward women,” a WHO journal report said.
One country in
Earlier this month,
Meanwhile, Mery’s fate lies in the hands of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which has been asked by the Center for Reproductive Rights to intervene in her case. The Commission is expected to rule on her case later this week.