El Salvador woman freed after 15 years in jail for abortion

Supreme Court releases woman who served 15 years of 30-year prison sentence for abortion she said was miscarriage.

Maira Verónica Figueroa Marroquin
Maira Veronica Figueroa Marroquin embraced her mother after her release from prison [Jose Cabezas/Reuters]

A woman has been released from prison in El Salvador after serving 15 years of a 30-year sentence for committing an abortion, which she said was a miscarriage.

Maira Veronica Figueroa Marroquin was sentenced in 2003 on aggravated murder charges but saw the rest of her sentence commuted by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Marroquin maintained the death of her baby was the result of a complicated stillbirth that she had suffered.

Following her release, the justice ministry said to local media that the charges were “excessive and immoral”.

After her release, Marroquin, 34, said, “now I’m going to start again and recover my lost time”. She was met by family, activists and media outside the prison in the capital.

While working as a house cleaner at 19 years old, Marroquin experienced pregnancy complications, and before her pregnancy became full-term, she miscarried.

Marroquin was arrested at a local hospital, and due to a lack of witness testimony, she was charged with inducing an abortion.

A strict Roman Catholic nation, El Salvador has banned abortion since 1998.

El Salvador is only one of five countries to not allow abortion under any circumstance – whether the pregnancy is due to rape, incest, a deformed fetus or the pregnancy is detrimental to a woman’s health.

Abortion is penalised with lengthy sentences and usually carries an eight-year sentence. Once the charge is deemed to be aggravated murder, it can carry a 30-year sentence.

Medical professionals can also face prosecution, should they fail to report suspected abortions.

Human rights groups say such laws permit the criminalisation of miscarriages and emergencies.

Colectivo Feminista, a feminist advocacy group, said in a statement “there exists no direct proof”, relating to the charges levelled at Marroquin.

The group affirmed they would continue to fight for females in similar circumstances and a change in legislation around abortion.

Since 2000 there have been more that 100 convictions over abortion-related crimes in El Salvador.

The news of Marroquin‘s release came in the wake of the case against Teodora Vasquez, whose 30-year sentence in 2008 was reduced in February after she spent more than 10 years in jail.

There are currently more than 20 women in jail on similar charges in El Salvador.

Source: News Agencies

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