El Salvadoran court frees woman jailed under anti-abortion law
Imelda Cortez did not know she was pregnant after her stepfather raped her. (Reuters: Jose Cabezas)
A Salvadoran woman accused of the attempted murder of her newborn baby under the country’s strict abortion laws after she was raped by her stepfather is free after spending more than 18 months in jail.
- Imelda Cortez gave birth in a toilet and left the baby behind
- Doctors suspected that Ms Cortez performed an abortion
- The child survived and its father is awaiting trial
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Imelda Cortez, 20, gave birth in a toilet in April 2017 and left the baby there.
When Ms Cortez was treated at a hospital afterwards, doctors suspected she had tried to perform an abortion.
The court determined that the woman, who had not known she was pregnant, did not try to kill her infant daughter. The child survived.
As she left court, Ms Cortez, who was arrested shortly after the birth, was greeted by cheering relatives and human rights activists holding signs demanding her freedom.
Ms Cortez’s stepfather has been arrested and is awaiting trial, Salvadoran prosecutors said.
Supporters of Imelda Cortez oppose El Salvador’s strict abortion laws. (Reuters: Jose Cabezas)
For the past two decades, El Salvador has had some of the world’s most severe laws against women who have abortions or those who are suspected of assisting them, even when the life of the woman is at risk.
Some 22 more women are serving sentences of up to 35 years for aggravated homicide linked to abortion, according to the Group for Decriminalising Abortion.
“This sentence … represents hope for women who are still in prison and are also being tried for aggravated homicide,” defence lawyer Ana Martinez said.
Salvadorian President Salvador Sanchez Ceren proposed a law last year to allow abortions in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is at risk, but Congress did not pass it.