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El Salvador Has Freed Three Women Jailed For 30 Years For Having Abortions For Medical Emergencies

Karen, Kathy and Evelyn, three women in El Salvador, have been freed after they were sentenced to 30 years in prison for having abortions after suffering medical emergencies.

Abortion is illegal in all circumstances in El Salvador, with no exceptions even for rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.

Under the penal code, having an abortion carries a prison sentence of two to eight years. Being charged with aggravated homicide will extend the sentence up to 40 years, according to the Guardian.

Abortion rights group Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto said it had been expecting to meet one woman who had been freed on presidential order on Dec. 14 but discovered three women had been released when they went to the prison in Zacatecoluca, southeast of the country’s capital San Salvador.

“We presented ourselves at the prison in Zacatecoluca, and Karen, Kathy and Evelyn left,” a representative from the group said. “They are free and in their homes.”

The three had already served 13, eight and six years of their sentences.

A video shared by human rights groups on social media showed the three women holding flowers and thanking to the organizations and people who had supported them.

“We are missing the 17,” they said in unison, referring to the other Salvadoran woman still convicted.

Activists and celebrities have been campaigning to free at least 17 women, including Kathy, Karen and Evelyn, who have been convicted and imprisoned after having medical emergencies and calling on President Nayib Bukele to let the women return home for Christmas.

More than 140 women have been charged under the country’s abortion ban in the past two decades, according to CBS News. 

Although several rulings have been overturned in recent years and many have been freed, women are still being prosecuted for having stillbirths and abortions due to medical emergencies.

In June, a 28-year-old woman was freed after she had served nearly one third of her 30-year sentence for having what she was a miscarriage.

Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto said it had not received any further information about the decision to free the three women but petitions to commute the women’s sentences were pending before the Supreme Court.

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