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El Salvador releases second woman jailed over abortion

Latest update : 13/03/2018

© AFP | Maira Figueroa is released from prison in El Salvador after serving 15 years of a 30-year sentence for having an abortion


A Salvadoran woman serving a 30-year sentence for aggravated homicide after having an abortion was released from prison on Tuesday having served half her sentence.

Maira Figueroa is the second woman jailed under the central American country's severe anti-abortion laws to have her sentence commuted by the Supreme Court this year.

"I am happy to be with my family," Figueroa, now 34, told reporters outside San Salvador's Women's Prison following her release.

She had served 15 years of her sentence, imposed when she was 19 years old.

Another Salvadoran woman, Teodora Vasquez, was freed in February. She had served 11 years of a 30-year sentence after being accused of an abortion following a stillbirth.

Under a law that came into force in 1998, all abortions are illegal in El Salvador, regardless of whether the pregnancy results from rape -- as in Figueroa's case -- or poses a medical threat to the woman.

Prison terms range from two to eight years, but women can be charged with more serious crimes instead, as in both women's cases.

Twenty-six other women are currently incarcerated in the small Central American country for falling foul of the strict stance against abortion.

Figueroa was convicted in 2003 by a court in the western city of Ahuachapan for aggravated homicide.

She had been hospitalized after suffering an obstetric emergency and blood loss at a home where she worked as a domestic employee.

Prosecutors accused her of aggravated homicide and she received a 30-year prison sentence.

The baby died in hospital and "she was arrested and accused of having caused an abortion," the Citizens' Association for the Decriminalization of Abortion said in a statement.

The pressure group representing 15 women's rights organizations had petitioned the Supreme Court for her release.

© 2018 AFP