Thanks to my son, Greg Weeks, for pointing me to a story in Thomson Reuters Foundation News today that follows up on my blog post a few days ago about the incredibly restrictive abortion law in El Salvador. The article starts with the story of one young woman who was sent to jail with a 30 year sentence for allegedly having had an abortion.
It is a decade since her ordeal began, when 17-year-old Vasquez was raped and left pregnant. She suffered a miscarriage and her baby died. At hospital, doctors accused Vasquez of having an abortion, which is banned in El Salvador without exception.She was a lucky one. At least 17 other young woman are serving long prison sentences for allegedly having had an abortion, and the likelihood of the country easing its policy seems fairly low.
Vasquez was convicted of aggravated murder in 2008 and sent to jail. She spent seven years in prison before winning release in 2015 following a rare pardon by lawmakers after El Salvador's top court ruled due process had been violated in her trial.
Congresswoman Lorena Pena, who introduced a bill in October to ease the ban, says it would allow abortion under certain circumstances, including in cases of rape and a risky pregnancy. "It's about saving women's lives," said Pena, who belongs to El Salvador's ruling leftist FMLN party. "The changes to the law are so that women can decide about their own lives, their own futures," Pena told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview. So far, debates over the country's fiscal crisis and rampant gang violence have overshadowed all other concerns, and lawmakers have yet to vote on the abortion bill.Unfortunately for young, defenseless women, a combination of the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant evangelical groups oppose overturning the abortion ban, and so it is unlikely to be changed, despite pleas from the United Nations and other international groups. It is impossible for me to understand how ruining a young woman's life is more important than all of the other really big issues that face El Salvador.