A 19-year-old rape victim in El Salvador, Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for a law that equates having a stillbirth with murder.
Cruz reported that she had been being assaulted and raped repeatedly by a local gang member for about a year. She had not even realized she was pregnant until she felt ill and went to the bathroom, and ended up giving birth.
She was put on trial for failing to seek medical attention for her unborn child, which resulted in its death.
The prosecutor in the case argued that Hernandez had intentionally not sought prenatal care, and threw the baby into a toilet with the intention of killing the child. The judge suggested Hernandez’s mother may be culpable as well.
17 women were imprisoned for miscarriages from 1999 to 2011, according to BuzzFeed. Women have been charged with “aggravated homicide” of the fetus for a stillbirth or miscarriage.
A 2015 report from human rights organization Amnesty International said at least 19 women in the country were in prison for crimes related to abortion, although some have since been freed.
“El Salvador’s anti-abortion law is causing nothing but pain and suffering to countless women and girls and their families,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, the director for the Americas at Amnesty International, according to Al Jazeera. “It goes against human rights and it has no place in the country or anywhere.”
Hernandez’s lawyer, Dennis Munoz, called the judge’s decision unjust. The young woman’s attorneys are reported to be planning to appeal the ruling.
Her lawyers are arguing that she was charged unfairly.
There has been a bill introduced this year that would exclude cases or rape or incest from the stillbirth laws.