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Demonstration for the decriminalization of abortion in El Salvador. Photo by Camilo Freedman.
Demonstration for the decriminalization of abortion in El Salvador. Photo: Camilo Freedman.

Sara Rogel freed from Salvadoran prison 10 years after having an abortion

The case of Sara Rogel is a precedent and a step forward in the fight for the decriminalization of abortion in Latin America.

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Sara Rogel was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the crime of "aggravated homicide" for allegedly having an abortion when she was 20 years old in El Salvador.

This week, she was released, as confirmed by the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto en El Salvador (Citizens' Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion in El Salvador).

"Sara regained her freedom, after the Tribunal de Vigilancia Penitenciaria y Ejecución de la Pena de Cojutepeque in a hearing on May 31, 2021, granted her the penitentiary benefit of parole. #JusticiaParaTodas," they announced on social media.

Rogel was sentenced to 30 years in prison in September 2013 and last January, received the benefit of sentence commutation, with which her sentence was reduced to 10 years, explained lawyer Karla Vaquerano.

On May 31, an early parole hearing was held and ruled in favor of the young woman. Five days later, the Prosecutor's Office informed that it would not appeal the judge's decision, so Rogel could be released from prison.

The young Rogel had allegedly suffered an obstetric emergency in October 2012, after slipping while washing clothes.

"She lost a lot of blood and fainted, was taken to a hospital and while still in a delicate state of health, she was accused of wanting to terminate her pregnancy, for which she was arrested and charged with aggravated homicide," said the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto (Citizens' Association for the Decriminalization of Abortion).

In El Salvador, at least 16 women who suffered out-of-hospital births were accused of abortion and are in prison as a result. The country is one that prohibits abortion in all its causes in Central America.

In December 2020, the cases of women who have been imprisoned for suffering miscarriages reached the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Elida Caballero, representative of Women's Equality Center, said that after being criminalized in their homes or medical centers, these women faced a machista judicial system.

"The accusations of the Prosecutor's Office are full of stereotypes and value judgments, with serious flaws and violations of essential principles of law, such as due process and the presumption of innocence. This situation is systematic and harms mainly women living in poverty in remote rural areas who do not have access to health and education," said Caballero.

In March of this year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) heard the case of “Manuela,” another woman sentenced to 30 years in prison after suffering an out-of-hospital birth.

The case sets a precedent and holds the Salvadoran State responsible for having committed violations of women's rights, against the presumption of innocence, judicial protection, defense, health, privacy, the principle of equality and non-discrimination.

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