SkyNews reported about the case of a woman who says she was raped and later gave birth in a toilet is facing a second trial for murder in El Salvador. Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez’s original 30-year sentence was overturned by the supreme court in February and a new trial was ordered.
Ms Hernandez says she was raped but did not know she was pregnant. She went to an outhouse in April 2016 to use the toilet after having stomach pains and her mother found her passed out. A 32-week fetus was later found in the septic tank – but both women insist they did not know she had given birth.
“I truly did not know I was pregnant,” Ms Hernandez said on Monday. “If I had known, I would have awaited it with pride and with joy.” Prosecutors do not believe them, but the supreme court accepted it had not been proven that she had caused the death.
As the retrial began, Ms Hernandez said: “I want justice to be done. I know everything is going to be okay. My faith lies with God and my lawyers.”
The case has brought attention to El Salvador’s strict abortion laws – the country often pursues cases against women who have had miscarriages or other complications, accusing them of murder. Women’s rights campaigners hope June’s election of a new young president, Nayib Bukele, will have an effect on the trial. He has said abortion is only acceptable when a woman’s life is at risk, but that he is “completely against” prosecuting women who have miscarriages.
“If a poor woman has a miscarriage, she’s immediately suspected of having had an abortion,” Mr Bukele said last year. “We can’t assume guilt when what a woman needs is immediate assistance.” However, he has so far not spoken publicly about the case.
El Salvador is one of three countries in Central America with a no-exception ban on abortion – even in cases of rape and incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. Women who have abortions can get up to eight years in jail but prosecutors often bump up the charges to aggravated homicide, with a potential 40-year sentence. Many of the women convicted are from poor areas, or rape victims.
An estimated 25,000 women fall pregnant every year after being raped in El Salvador – a country of six million that is plagued by gang violence. The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion in El Salvador has followed 146 prosecutions for abortion since 2014. It says that 60 women were sentenced to jail, with 24 convicted of aggravated homicide. Ms Hernandez’s trial has been adjourned until the 26th of July.