Statement on Solidarity with Reproductive Rights Movement of El Salvador
The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador expresses our solidarity with women imprisoned in El Salvador due to accusations of having had an abortion. We also express our solidarity with social movement groups in the country that are calling on their government to pardon and release these women from prison and that have, for many years, been fighting for the decriminalization of abortion in their country.
El Salvador’s total ban on abortion, approved by the Legislative Assembly in 1998 along with a Constitutional reform that recognizes life as beginning at the moment of conception, means that thousands of women who make the decision to terminate a pregnancy must do so in clandestine and extremely unsafe conditions, often resulting in severe consequences to their health, including death. Women living in poverty in El Salvador are unfairly impacted by the ban, as wealthy women may be able to travel abroad for an abortion or pay a doctor in a private clinic to perform one.
We express our support for the Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion in calling for 17 women imprisoned for abortion or infanticide to be pardoned and released from prison. They face a challenging fight, considering all three branches of government are involved in the pardon process. Conservative right-wing parties hold a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly and the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber is also beholden to conservative interests. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church, particularly the ultra-conservative Opus Dei sect, also wields great influence in Salvadoran politics. The petitions for pardon are currently in the hands of the Supreme Court, which was legally required to determine whether the Legislative Assembly could proceed with the pardon cases by August 10th of this year. They have yet to issue a decision.
We applaud recent declarations from Sigfrido Reyes, legislator from the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party and President of the Legislative Assembly, who has called on the Supreme Court to pardon the 17 imprisoned women and deems the current legislation on abortion a violation of women’s rights, having stated, “This Assembly should open itself to this issue in a much more realistic way.”
However, declarations from legislator Carmen Elena Figueroa of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party demonstrate conservative sectors’ recalcitrance regarding this issue: “We aren’t supporters of abortion…a person must be protected from the moment of conception.”
The previous and current FMLN administrations have made gains in the arena of women’s rights, launching national campaigns against domestic violence, expanding access to free contraception provided by community health promoters in the public healthcare system, and creating the lauded Ciudad Mujer (Women’s City) program. While there have been many advances, the total ban on abortion continues to demonstrate that women not having control over their own bodies is a deadly form of violence against women.
The driving force of change in El Salvador has always been its people, its organized social movement, and the tenacity of pro-choice and women’s organizations in their struggle to protect the rights of women and girls inspires us. In the past few years, they have brought the issue of reversing El Salvador’s total ban on abortion to the forefront. We applaud them and express our solidarity with their demands for women’s human rights to be respected. In doing so, we call on:
- El Salvador’s Supreme Court to issue an immediate decision allowing the Legislative Assembly to move forward with the petitions to pardon the 17 women imprisoned for abortion.
- El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly to reverse the total ban on abortion in the country, taking into account the deadly impact it has on the lives of women and girls rather than allowing religious fanaticism to overshadow an utmost respect for human rights.