April 27, 2018 / 6:54 PM / 25 days ago

El Salvador MPs have 'blood on their hands': abortion campaigners

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - El Salvador’s lawmakers have “blood on their hands”, rights campaigners said on Friday, after parliament failed to consider proposals that would have decriminalised abortion in some circumstances.

Abortion is a crime in the Catholic-majority nation under strict laws that campaigners say put women’s lives in danger.

About 25 women are in prison accused of abortion-related crimes even though rights groups say they actually suffered miscarriages, stillbirths or pregnancy complications.

“El Salvador’s lawmakers have blood on their hands after declining to even discuss the reform to decriminalize abortion,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, in a statement on Friday.

“This desperately needed bill would have saved the lives of countless women and girls who are needlessly put at risk by the total ban on abortion.”

The ruling leftist FMLN party has tried to overturn El Salvador’s total ban on abortion in place since 1997 and allow the procedure in cases of rape or a risky pregnancy.

Thursday was seen as the last opportunity to do so before a new conservative-majority Congress takes over next week.

“Lawmakers have failed to fulfil their obligations because they have not guaranteed the constitutional right to health and life of girls and women,” local rights group, the Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion (CFDA) said.

It said about a third of all pregnancies in El Salvador are among girls aged 10 to 18, with many the result of incest by a relative or rape at the hands of someone known to the girl.

“The absolute criminalization of abortion causes unnecessary risks and injustices that affect especially the poorest women,” the CFDA said in a statement signed by dozens of other rights groups.

In April, the United Nations called on El Salvador to revise the law and review all such cases in which women had been jailed.

El Salvador’s influential Catholic Church and most evangelical and conservative groups believe abortion is a sin and say the law must protect the rights of an unborn child at all costs.

Five other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean also have outright abortion bans.

Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

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