May 28 is the International Day of Action for Women’s Health—a day advocates have commemorated since 1987. This year, the focus is on institutional violence.
Carmelina Pérez, a Honduran woman living in El Salvador, was sentenced to 30 years in prison in July 2014 after suffering what appeared to be a miscarriage. But last week, she was acquitted of all charges, setting a possible new precedent in the fight for reproductive justice in El Salvador.
Attorneys for Patel, who was jailed following a miscarriage in 2013, claim prosecutors produced no evidence that the Indiana woman took medication to terminate her pregnancy.
Purvi Patel’s 41-year sentence for contradictory charges is a glaring reminder of the fact that abortion’s legal status in the United States does not mean prosecutions for pregnancy loss can’t happen here.
Patel received a six-year sentence on the feticide charge, but that will be served concurrently with the 20-year sentence. She will spend five years on probation when she is released from prison.
Jurors deliberated for less than five hours before finding Purvi Patel guilty of both feticide and felony neglect of a dependent.
Although feticide laws were originally intended to protect pregnant women from violence, such statutes are now being used to punish them, sending the message that women who do not have healthy pregnancies may be investigated for criminal acts.
The story of Purvi Patel’s prosecution, and the others lining up behind her, paint a bleak picture of life under the state’s ultra-conservative Republican reign and give a frightening look of what’s to come as increasingly draconian abortion restrictions force pregnant people to turn to other, sometimes illegal and often dangerous, means.
The El Salvador national legislature had the opportunity on January 16 to pardon a woman named Guadalupe, who was convicted of aggravated homicide against her newborn when, in fact, she had suffered obstetrical complications. Her petition fell one vote short of approval, but the story isn’t over.
When determining whether to pardon the Salvadoran women incarcerated on abortion-related charges, the country’s National Criminology Council gave “unfavorable” recommendations for 12 of them based on factors such as “scarce economic resources.”