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A Salvadoran court sentenced a woman to 30 years in prison for the death of her unborn child following an obstetric emergency, a verdict that comes amid rising criticism of the Central American country’s strict abortion laws, Al Jazeera reported Tuesday.

The case is related to a 28-year-old woman, who had suffered a health emergency in 2019 and sought assistance at the local hospital. Abortion rights advocates said Monday that the woman – known as Esme – was convicted of homicide and handed a lengthy sentence after serving two years of pre-trial detention.

Esme’s lawyers said they will appeal the decision. They added that the verdict is the first of its kind under the government of President Nayib Bukele, who had previously said that no woman should be jailed for an obstetric emergency.

Activists described the ruling as “a hard blow for the road to overcome the criminalization of obstetric emergencies.” The ruling would mark a step backward for El Salvador, analysts said, which has attracted international condemnation for its abortion rules.

Abortion is illegal in the country even in cases of rape and when the mother’s health is threatened. Women’s rights advocates said authorities have sometimes used the 1998 law to prosecute women that suffered miscarriages, stillbirths or other obstetric emergencies.

Over the last 20 years, the government has criminally prosecuted more than 180 women who suffered obstetric emergencies.

In 2021, advocates and celebrities protested as part of the “Las 17” movement, referring to the 17 women who had been convicted for suffering a miscarriage or an obstetric emergency.

Only five of them have been released.

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