Whilst having my weekly browse at the BBC News homepage, an article caught my eye called ‘El Salvador: Where women may be jailed for miscarrying’. I almost thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, so I clicked on and read that yes, women are being jailed for manslaughter for having a miscarriage.
As most people know, El Salvador isn’t exactly the most relaxed place for laws, especially on abortion. However, they now suggest that women aggravate their pregnancies and force a miscarriage, therefore giving them reason to charge them with manslaughter. It’s not something that these women wanted, it was something terrible that happened to them which they had no control over and they could potentially end up with their life taken away from them.
In one case, a woman called Maria Teresa Rivera suffered a terrible miscarriage and was sentenced for ‘40 years for aggravated manslaughter’. The fact is that a lot of these women in El Salvador are badly educated, too poor and are often too nervous to go to hospital in case they get caught by police.
The BBC said that ‘More than 200 women were reported to the police between 2000 and 2011, of whom 129 were prosecuted and 49 convicted - 26 for murder (with sentences of 12 to 35 years) and 23 for abortion, according to research by Citizens' Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion. Seven more have been convicted since 2012.’
Not only is it happening in places like El Salvador, it’s happening in far too many other places too. Recently the Huffington Post reported on a case in Mississippi where a woman has been charged with manslaughter. The woman in question is Nina Backhalter who gave birth to a still born after using meth throughout her pregnancy. Now I’m not condoning the use of drugs when pregnant, but is prosecuting a women who lost her child the way to go?
Ultimately it seems very wrong, regardless of the situation, for women to be punished for something that is out of their control.