El Salvador has become the center for a feminist rally regarding miscarriages.
The country, along with Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Chile, has strict law against abortion–laws so strict that even a miscarriage is seen as an punishable offense.
More than 120 women in El Salvador alone have been imprisoned because of miscarriages between the years of 2000 and 2011, with many of them ushered directly from their hospital beds to jail to serve terms from 2 to 50 years.
The charge against them? Aggravated homicide.
What’s worse, many of the women face longer jail sentences due to changes within the court system.
According to a report from VICE News, aggravated homicide was recently made a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor, raising the jail sentences to as long as 50 years in some cases.
And because the women falling victim to the abortion law are primarily those who live in poverty with only access to public health systems, those are the women with the highest risk for incarceration due to public health reporting from such facilities.
“Did you know that all of the criminal reports originate in public hospitals? Not one I repeat not one of these cases came from private hospitals, because at these medical centers if a woman comes in, suffering from complications, they induce an abortion and that is the end of that,Morena Herrera, who oversees the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion NGO, told VICE.
The fear of imprisonment regarding such unfair and emotional circumstances has created a movement in El Salvador to help some of the accused.
On April 1st, protestors gathered in San Salvador to gain pardons for 17 women who have been convicted of aggravated homicide after being admitted to public hospitals with failed pregnancies.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, between 10 and 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in a miscarriage–the majority of which occur due to factors outside of a mother’s control.
During the first trimester, when the most miscarriages take place, the primary cause is chromosomal abnormality, a genetic issue that prevents a fetus from developing fully.
Other factors outside of a woman’s control include damaged sperm or egg, hormonal fluctuations, maternal age, and maternal trauma. Sometimes the reason for a miscarriage is unknown.
Though lifestyle habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption can also increase miscarriage risk, many women who live in poverty are unaware how their behaviors can affect pregnancy.
Experts indicate that the crisis in El Salvador is one likely fueled by ignorance; pregnant women of all socioeconomic standings need to be educated on the risks associated with pregnancy.
In addition, medical staff need to be able to distinguish between a miscarriage and a deliberately induced abortive process.
For many, though, it is already too late.
Cristina Quintanilla was 18 when she woke up handcuffed to a hospital bed after losing her 7-month pregnancy. This would have been her third child.
“I was pregnant; I was with my husband; I was happy. I kept the baby clothes, because I was excited, but I lost my child on October 26, 2004,” she told VICE.
“When I got out of jail I was happy, but now I cant believe that I missed four years of my sons life his first day of school, his first words, his first steps. That is something they can never give me back.”