Woman Freed After 15 Years In Prison For An Abortion She Says Was Miscarriage, 27 More Women Still Jailed

This woman’s story is just one of many in El Salvador.

Angel Soler GollonetShutterstock

Maira Verónica Figueroa Marroquín was released from prison on February 15 when her 30-year sentence for aggravated murder was reduced. She had spent 15 years behind bars at the Ilopango Women’s Prison in El Salvador, reported the BBC.

However, the Thomson Reuters Foundation News noted that Figueroa’s sentence has not been overturned. This means that her innocence has not yet been proven.

Figueroa’s legal troubles began when she was 19-years-old when she was working as a domestic worker. While giving birth at her employer’s home, she began to bleed severely. Her boss took her to the hospital, where a doctor deemed that Figueroa had “provoked an abortion.” However, she says that it was a miscarriage.

The law that sent her to prison dates back to 1997. It made abortion illegal in all instances, including cases involving rape, incest, and when the woman’s life is in danger. The maximum sentence for having an abortion is 50 years.

The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion is the activist group that helped Figueroa. Her freedom is the result of years of work. The organization built a strong argument for her release, citing that she was “convicted without direct proof, only by speculation.”

Rewire News interviewed Figueroa, who reminded people of the other women who are still incarcerated.

“I’m so happy to be free and with my family. We need to keep fighting so all the other women can be freed too.”

Ilopongo Prison where woman was freed.
Glimpse of the inside of the Ilopongo Women's Prison, where Figueroa was incarcerated for 15 years.Featured image credit: Luis RomeroAP Images

Reuters reported that more than 27 women are serving abortion-related murder sentences.

Of the 27 women is Beatriz Hernandez Cruz. A judge handed her a 30-year prison sentence after she lost a baby to stillbirth, reported the New York Post. Prosecutors say she threw the baby in the toilet, but the BBC detailed that she gave birth in the restroom and lost consciousness after hemorrhaging.

Beatriz says that she did not know that she was expecting a baby. This is because she had been raped, but had not reported it. She knew her rapist was a violent gang member.

In many past cases, the justice system sentenced women on abortion charges despite evidence that proved the contrary, detailed The Los Angeles Times. For example, forensic examiners ignored autopsies that revealed findings consistent with stillbirths.