A woman in El Salvador who fell pregnant after being raped by her stepfather could face 20 years in prison if found guilty of attempted abortion under
A woman in El Salvador who fell pregnant after being raped by her stepfather could face 20 years in prison if found guilty of attempted abortion under the country’s strict law.
Imelda Cortez, who became pregnant aged 18, is due to appear in court on Monday charged with attempted aggravated murder.
Cortez denies trying to abort her baby, which is a crime under any circumstance in the Central American nation. Her daughter is now nearly two years old.
Judges will consider medical evidence presented by doctors to determine if Cortez intentionally tried to induce an abortion and convict her on attempted murder charges, or decide to set her free.
International charities and non-government organisations including Amnesty International have supported calls to decriminalise abortion in El Salvador.
“Imelda is despondent. Her case could go either way,” her lawyer Alejandra Romero told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“But if the judge is objective and looks at the evidence, which doesn’t show she harmed her child and committed a crime, Imelda should be set free,” she said.
Cortez’s case has revived a debate about El Salvador’s total ban on abortion, even for rape victims.
“Imelda was repeatedly raped by her stepfather from the age of eleven. DNA tests prove her child is the daughter of her stepfather,” said Ms Romero.
The stepfather has since been imprisoned on charges of raping a minor.
“Yet Imelda is being treated as a criminal, not a victim of sexual violence,” said Ms Romero, who works for the Citizen Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion (CDFA) in El Salvador.
Cortez is one of about 25 women in jail accused of inducing abortions who say they were wrongfully jailed for murder, when instead they suffered miscarriages, stillbirths or pregnancy complications, according to the CDFA.
Lawyers say convictions for such crimes are often based on flimsy medical evidence as it is difficult for doctors to prove if someone has had an abortion, let alone attempts to do so.
Earlier this year, the United Nations called on El Salvador to revise its abortion law and review all such cases in which women have been jailed.