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El Salvador: Release Teodora, jailed after suffering a still-birth

In 2008, Teodora del Carmen Vásquez was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide” after suffering a still-birth at work.

Teodora, mother of an 11-year-old boy, was expecting a new baby when she started experiencing increasingly severe pain. She called the emergency services but her waters broke soon afterwards. She went into labour, and was unconscious when she gave birth.

When she came round, bleeding profusely, her baby was dead. Police at the scene handcuffed her and arrested her on suspicion of murder. Only then did they take her to hospital where she could get the urgent treatment she needed.

In El Salvador, women who miscarry or suffer a still-birth during pregnancy are routinely suspected of having had an “abortion”. Abortion under any circumstance is a crime, even in cases of rape, incest, or where a woman’s life is at risk. This makes women afraid to seek help with pregnancy-related problems, leading inevitably to more preventable deaths.

Teodora’s trial was deeply flawed. As in all similar cases in El Salvador, she was presumed guilty and, being from a poor family, could not afford an effective legal team to represent her. Her only option now is to appeal for her sentence to be changed so that she is released.

Call on El Salvador’s Minister of Justice to release Teodora immediately.

To the Minister of Justice, El Salvador

Teodora del Carmen Vásquez is currently serving a 30 year prison sentence for aggravated homicide, after suffering a still-birth at work. She was presumed guilty of having an “abortion” rather than the potential victim of pregnancy complications.

Teodora’s trial was flawed and lacking in due process. She was presumed guilty and, being from a poor family, could not afford an effective legal team to represent her.

Minister, I call on you to:

  • Take action to ensure Teodora del Carmen Vásquez is immediately released.
  • Take action to release all other women incarcerated for pregnancy-related complications who have exhausted other legal remedies.

Teodora has already spent over eight years in jail. She is now applying for her sentence to be commuted. Her last hope is in your hands.