Salvadoran woman accused of having abortion freed pending new trial


A young Salvadoran woman sentenced to 30 years in prison for allegedly aborting her child was released here Friday pending a new trial set for April.

Evelyn Hernandez, 20, has been behind bars in Ilopango since April 2016 and now awaits a new trial.

Hernandez, who made no statement to the press, was received by her family and a group of human-rights defenders, who used the occasion to demand freedom for some 20 women imprisoned for allegedly aborting their babies.

“Evelyn’s case isn’t the only one - there are still women unjustly sentenced to prison who are victims of an unequal, unfair judicial system,” activist and Feminist Collective representative Joshi Leban said.

Hernandez was sentenced in July 2017 to 30 years in prison for the crime of aggravated murder, but in December 2018 the Supreme Court annulled the verdict and ordered a new trial.

The woman’s attorneys said she had suffered an out-of-hospital birth on April 6, 2016.

April 4 is the date set for Hernandez’s next trial, defense lawyer Angelica Rivas told EFE at the gates to the prison.

Rivas asked the District Attorney’s Office to “reconsider its approach” to Hernandez’s next trial, since in her opinion that would mean “a chance to do things right this time with a change of attitude.”

“We’re optimistic about the role the AG Office can play in this new process,” Rivas said.

“In El Salvador we don’t really understand the function of the AG Office, because we think it is solely for prosecuting crime, but we should remember it must also guarantee people’s rights and due process,” the defense lawyer said.

In El Salvador, women who suffer complications during pregnancy that lead to spontaneous abortions and still-born babies are widely suspected of practicing abortion, banned under all circumstances.

Since 2009, the Citizens Association for the Decriminalization of Abortion has succeeded in helping 28 women accused of abortion to regain their freedom. One of the most iconic cases was that of Teodora del Carmen Vasquez, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for an abortion that was never proved.

Vasquez gave birth to a still-born baby in 2007 after feeling some sudden strong pains while she was working.

The Justice Ministry commuted Teodora’s sentence in 2018 but did not revoke her conviction.