Aggravated Murder Conviction Based on Alleged Abortion (El Salvador)

Manuela and her family

Pregnancy Justice, working with the Reproductive Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law, submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case of Manuela and her family to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In February 2008, a woman identified as Manuela went to a hospital in El Salvador after experiencing an obstetric emergency at home. At the hospital, the police were contacted because of El Salvador’s total ban on abortion, Manuela and her family were interrogated , and Manuela was charged, convicted, and sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated murder based upon the claim that she had actually had an abortion. In 2010, while incarcerated, Manuela died. The Center for Reproductive Rights and La Agrupación por la Despenalización del Aborto filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission asserting that El Salvador violated the human rights of Manuela and her family.

This case presents a disturbing example of how anti-abortion laws reach women like Manuela who have no intention of ending their pregnancies. Pregnancy Justice’s amicus brief examines how El Salvador has failed to meet its international obligations to ensure the rights to health, dignity, and privacy for pregnant women, and how the abortion ban discriminates against already marginalized populations, including those who live in poverty and lack access to education and health care. The brief urges the Commission to hold the Salvadoran government accountable for inserting law enforcement into medical settings and prosecuting women for pregnancy outcomes while failing to provide adequate health care and education to it's people.