The following media release was shared on Monday morning by Women’s Equality Center:
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Today, 21-year-old rape survivor Evelyn Beatriz Hernández Cruz was found not guilty by a El Salvador court after she was falsely accused of aggravated homicide for experiencing a stillbirth in April 2016. Evelyn faced 40 years in prison as prosecutors argued that her stillbirth amounted to murder. El Salvador is considered to have the most extreme abortion ban in the world and is one of the only countries known to prosecute and imprison women in cases of obstetric emergencies.
Paula Avila Guillen, Director of Latin America Initiatives at the Women’s Equality Center, said: “Justice for Evelyn was delayed and denied for far too long, but today the courts have determined what we already knew to be true: Evelyn is innocent. Evelyn’s freedom is the direct result of tireless work by powerful Salvadoran activists who won’t let up until their country recognizes that an obstetric complication is not a crime, to be a woman is not a crime, and to be poor is not a crime. Today is proof that every protest, every rally, and every step marched for justice makes a difference.
“Throughout this ordeal, Evelyn has shown strength far beyond her years. Her pain has become a rallying cry for women across the country fighting for autonomy over their own bodies. El Salvador cannot realize its true potential while its women live in fear of their own government. It’s time to end the total abortion ban, stop the practice of prosecuting women who suffer obstetric emergencies, and recognize that reproductive freedom is a fundamental right. ”
Morena Herrera, a leading women’s rights activist in El Salvador, said: “This day we celebrate that justice has been done for Evelyn. This is a sign of hope for all women who remain in jail for crimes they did not commit for health problems that should never have been brought to court, and it is a hope for Salvadoran society because we are beginning to take steps along the path of justice, of truth, and of well-being for everyone. No woman should go through the ordeal that Evelyn did.”
Background on Evelyn: Evelyn became pregnant at age 18 as a result of sexual violence in her community and delivered a stillborn child in April 2016. There is no evidence showing that Evelyn ever attempted to end the pregnancy or harm the fetus. Despite this, in July 2017, Evelyn was sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide. After serving 33 months in prison, the decision was overturned by a judge on appeal in February 2019 for lack of evidence. Prosecutors decided to retry Evelyn on the same charges.
Background on El Salvador’s Total Abortion Ban: El Salvador has had a total abortion ban since 1998, including in cases where the woman’s life is at risk or the pregnancy results from rape or incest. El Salvador is the only country known to regularly prosecute and imprison women as a result of the abortion ban, even in cases where the women suffered miscarriages, stillbirths and other obstetric emergencies. Today, more than 20 women are in prison under trumped-up charges of manslaughter, homicide, or aggravated homicide after being accused of having an abortion. In total, at least 50 women have been imprisoned.