Teodora is free!
In an unexpected development, the Supreme Court of El Salvador commuted Teodora’s sentence on Feb. 15, 2018, freeing her after a 10-year long nightmare. Just two months ago a Court of Cassation had ruled against her appeal but the Supreme Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence she intentionally induced an abortion, the basis for her original conviction.
Numerous other Salvadoran women are still in jail, as noted by Amnesty International’s Erika Guevara-Rosas, but we are thrilled to learn that Teodora is home with her family at long last.
Group 11 Petition for Teodora Gathers Almost 55,000 Signatures
In December 2017, following a request by Amnesty International to local affiliates, Group 11 organized a petition drive on Change.org urging the El Salvadoran legislature to revisit its country’s draconian anti-abortion laws.
Interview About the Case / Entrevista sobre el caso
Listen to a Spanish language radio interview that we conducted on the case (escucha a una entrevista en español sobre el caso): https://soundcloud.com/user-704829207/espn-malin-falu-amnesty-international-interview
Travesty of Justice in El Salvador
Lée esta página en español Group 11 is closely following the case of Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, an El Salvadoran woman who suffered a stillbirth in 2007, after the rapid onset of serious pain while she was at work. Police arrested her as she lay in a pool of blood. She was later sentenced to 30 years for ‘aggravated homicide’ under El Salvador’s ban on abortions and has been in jail since 2008. She was presumed guilty of ‘abortion’ rather than the victim of pregnancy complications.
After work by Teodora’s lawyer, family, local groups and international pressure, the case was appealed in December 2017 but unfortunately the court rejected the defense’s expert witness testimony and reaffirmed Teodora’s 30 year prison term. Her attorney is presently contemplating a final appeal to a court of cassation (a type of appeals court that reviews whether the law was properly applied but does not review the evidence itself).
Group 11 Wins 2017 Case Commitment Award
The 2017 Individuals at Risk Case Commitment Award was presented to Group 11 at the Amnesty International USA Annual General Meeting held in Albuquerque, NM. in March.
The Individuals at Risk Awards honors AIUSA activists and groups who demonstrate exceptional dedication and leadership by helping to free prisoners of conscience, support human rights defenders and end other urgent cases of abuse by taking part in the Urgent action network, Case Commitment Initiative or Write for Rights. Group 11 was acknowledged for their work to free Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, a Salvadoran woman currently serving a 30 year sentence for homicide after suffering a stillbirth at work. According to the AI Individuals at Risk, Teodora’s mother, Maria Elena, told Amnesty’s researchers, “I thank you [Amnesty] because you are fighting for her… and this process will continue until she gets out of there. And this motivates me, it motivates me with great joy in my own heart, and I thank you in the name of God.”
The award was received by Sandra Robishaw, who gave special recognition to Martha Spital, long-time volunteer and co-leader of “Team Teodora”
What You Can Do
If you wish to send a letter to the El Salvadoran Minister of Justice on Teodora’s behalf, a sample is here. Additional background information on El Salvador’s draconian abortion laws, which punish women with lengthy prison sentences, please see AIUSA Group 11’s area page on El Salvador.
Watch the following to learn more about Teodora’s case.
Jailed For A Miscarriage (National Geographic)
In the News
Group member Jeremy Barth, along with Marselha Gonçalves Margerin of Amnesty International, was interviewed on June 26, 2017 by ESPN Deportes’ Malin Falu. The episode of Entérate, in Spanish, is available at ESPN – Malin Falu – Amnesty International Interview. Teodora’s case has been reported in many venues. Among them:
- Letter From El Salvador: ‘I Was Jailed for a Miscarriage’ (Daily Beast, 10/23/16)
- El Salvador’s “Abortion Lawyer” (New York Times, 9/2/16)
- El Salvador’s anti-abortion law makes criminals of mothers who miscarry (The Guardian, 11/30/15)
- In El Salvador, a pregnancy complication followed by a prison sentence (Al Jazeera America, 4/22/15)
Teodora’s is not an isolated case. The total ban on abortion in El Salvador and the resulting presumption of guilt continue to destroy the lives of women and girls.
- On July 5, 2017, Salvadoran authorities gave a 19-year-old rape survivor, Evelyn Beatriz Hernández Cruz, a 30-year prison sentence after she suffered complications similar to those of Teodora. See Amnesty International, El Salvador Rape Survivor Sentenced to 30 Years in Jail Under Extreme Anti-Abortion Law