U.N. appalled at 30-year sentence for woman under El Salvador abortion law

Teodora del Carmen Vasquez arrives at a court of justice for a sentence review hearing in San Salvador, El Salvador, December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

GENEVA (Reuters) - A 30-year prison sentence for a woman in El Salvador who said her child was stillborn is appalling, U.N. human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell said on Friday.

The Second Court of Appeal of San Salvador on Wednesday upheld the sentence for Teodora Vasquez, who was convicted in 2008 of aggravated homicide in the death of her child the previous year.

Prosecutors said Vasquez strangled the baby after birth. Her lawyers said she suffered health complications and the baby was stillborn.

Since 1997, El Salvador has had one of the world’s most severe laws against women who have abortions or are suspected of assisting them.

“It is absolutely astounding, astonishing, appalling that these women are in essence being convicted of having a miscarriage, having a child stillborn,” Throssell said.

“They are basically being convicted for being women, for losing a child and for being poor,” she said, adding that at least 41 other women have been similarly convicted over the past decade or so.

The U.N. was not aware of El Salvador jailing any women from wealthier backgrounds under the same law, Throssell said.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg