Women’s rights advocates have welcomed the release of a woman in El Salvador who was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for a suspected abortion, in a case that has drawn international attention to the South American nation’s strict abortion ban.
Sara Rogel, 28, was arrested in October 2012 after going to a hospital with bleeding injuries caused by what she said was a fall while carrying out chores at home.
Then a 22-year-old student, Rogel was prosecuted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing her unborn daughter. Her sentence was later reduced to 10 years, which would have seen her released in October 2022.
On Monday, she left a women’s jail near Zacatecoluca, about 56km (35 miles) southeast of the capital San Salvador, where she was joined by members of her family and her lawyer Karla Vaquerano of the pro-abortion rights group ACDATEE.
“She was deprived of freedom for almost nine years, in a sentence we believed was unfairly given,” Vaquerano said.
Rogel was one of dozens of Salvadoran women imprisoned for abortion-related crimes in the country, which banned abortion in all circumstances, including rape or if the mother’s life is in danger, in 1998.
Women’s rights groups have said most of these women come from poor, rural areas and experienced obstetric emergencies, not abortions.
“Sara never deserved to be in prison,” feminist activist Morena Herrera said. “While in mourning for the heartbreaking loss of her pregnancy, Sara should have been with her family. Instead, she was unjustly imprisoned for nine years.”
Rogel’s case had drawn international attention and calls for action.
“If El Salvador is really serious about its international obligations to human rights, this is an opportunity to free Sarita,” said Paula Avila-Guillen, a lawyer consulting for Rogel’s legal team, told Al Jazeera in March.
Avila-Guillen, executive director of Women’s Equality Center, a US-based organisation that supports feminist organising in Latin America, welcomed the news of Rogel’s release on Monday, but said the fight would continue.
“She had to suffer not only with the loss of her pregnancy, but also the loss of her freedom. We won’t stop fighting until ALL the women are free!” she wrote.
In recent years some rulings have been reversed, with several women released from jail after serving parts of their long sentences.
Rogel’s release comes amid a “green wave” abortion rights movement in Latin America.
Otherwise, across the region abortions are available on-demand only in Cuba, Uruguay and in some parts of Mexico.