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A Salvadoran court released a woman who had been jailed for seven years after her baby’s premature death, a decision welcomed by human rights groups in a country with one of the world’s strictest abortion policies, Reuters reported this week.
Lilian, 28, gave birth in 2015 to a baby girl who succumbed to health complications three days later. She was given a 30-year prison sentence based on convictions linked to abortion. Prosecutors alleged that Lilian did not take care of the fetus during pregnancy and charged her with aggravated murder.
Lilian was released in December last year, but the news was only communicated last week, her supporters said. They added that the judge’s decision to free her was based on her vulnerable state while giving birth.
In a news conference, Lilian, who has a 10-year-old daughter, said she had never intended to abort her child.
Since 1998, El Salvador has imposed a blanket ban on abortion, disregarding exemptions such as rape or health hazards for the mother. People accused of abortion face up to eight years in prison, but in many cases such as Lilian’s, legal machinations bring the sentence up to 30 years.
Lilian was the last of dozens of women to be imprisoned on abortion charges, according to advocacy groups. Like her, many had not tried to terminate their pregnancies but suffered miscarriages or other instances of childbirth death. More than 70 women have been freed thanks to the efforts of civil rights activists, but more than a dozen are still behind bars.
Campaigning for reelection next month, President Nayib Bukele promised to improve safety conditions in maternity wards, though he emphasized he would not challenge El Salvador’s strict legislation on abortion.
The ban remains popular in the country, which has a Christian majority, believing that life begins at conception.