A 21-year-old Salvadorian rape survivor, who was accused of inducing an abortion and previously sentenced to 30 years in prison, was acquitted of all charges by an El Salvador judge after a retrial. Evelyn Hernández was found innocent after the judge said there was not enough evidence to convict her, according to Hernández’s defense team.
According to CNN, Hernández was found on the floor of her bathroom covered in blood in April 2016 and was taken to a local emergency room by her mother and a neighbor. Doctors examined her and found signs of a delivery but no baby, so they reported her to the police. Five hours later, local authorities found the newborn baby dead in a septic tank at her home.
Hernández was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2017, with prosecutors at the time claiming she induced an abortion and left the baby for dead. She served 33 months of her initial 30-year sentence and was released last February after her legal team presented an appeal before the Supreme Court and requested her retrial.
Both Hernández and her defense team said her pregnancy was the result of a rape, and Hernandez said she did not even know she was pregnant until she gave birth. She told reporters last month, “Had I know I was pregnant, I would have awaited the baby with pride and joy.”
Hernandez’s case has directed international attention to the country’s abortion laws, which are some of the strictest in the world. Abortions are illegal in El Salvador under any circumstance, including when the pregnancy poses a health risk to the mother or in cases of rape or incest.
‘Amnesty International,’ a global campaign to end abuses of human rights, called Hernández’s acquittal a victory for human rights and asked the government to end “the shameful and discriminatory practice of criminalizing women once and for all by immediately revoking the nation’s draconian anti-abortion laws.”
Paula Avila Guillen, director of the Latin America Initiatives for the Women’s Equality Center, told CNN, “It seems the judicial system is starting to understand that stillbirths are not crimes, they are obstetric emergencies. People in El Salvador now understand that the law, as it stands right now, criminalizes women in poverty.”