With various conflict and Ebola scares plaguing the globe, it is easy to undermine and forget about human rights struggles appearing in everyday lives of many on an international level.
It is 2014, and fundamental human rights for women are still being sought after worldwide.
On Sunday, Sept. 28, human rights NGO Amnesty International took part in the International Day to Decriminalize Abortion.
The main feature of this day was the recent report released by Amnesty International on El Salvador’s universal criminalization of abortion. This law has been in practice for over a decade now.
Under this law, women have been jailed after suffering miscarriages, have been denied crucial health care, and even been driven to suicide when they are forced to carry their rapist’s child or risk their own health for their unborn child.
Women are deprived of the right to their own bodies, and if they attempt to obtain this right, they will face lengthy prison sentences.
Women who get illegal abortions face up to eight years in prison.
María Teresa Rivera, a mother from El Salvador, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for aggravated homicide after she miscarried her second child, a pregnancy she herself was not yet aware of.
Unfortunately, her case is just one of many.
“Shockingly, the ban extends even to cases where the life of the pregnant woman is at risk, meaning those too ill to safely carry a pregnancy to term face an impossible choice: trapped between potential jail if they have an abortion or a death sentence if they do nothing,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, who launched the report on Sept. 28.
This report outlined several disturbing conclusions on abortion, including the fact that this law has not decreased the rate of abortion in El Salvador.
Instead, it merely drove women to seek the procedure in unsafe conditions.
These unsafe abortions have lead to the death of 11% of women or girls who have to go through the procedure.
If pregnant women face an injury while pregnant, or if something went wrong during an abortion, women are less likely to seek professional medical help in fear of prosecution.
This law goes beyond the health of the unborn child: it determines the overall wellbeing of the mother, who will likely ignore the warning signs of health issues because of pure fear of the consequence.
The law has created distrust between women and doctors.
As our school is just coming out of a week of sexual assault awareness with the “It’s On Us” campaign, it is important to remember women internationally who are dying and suffering from assault and lack of the right to their own body.
On a broad scale, this is an issue of inequality for women.
From the high rate of sexual assault against women on college campuses to the criminalization of abortion and miscarriages in El Salvador, inequality for women is an international problem.
As Emma Watson said in her recent He for She campaign speech, “‘How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?”. It is time to talk about this issue now.
We have asked our colleges to open their eyes and stop ignoring the high level of sexual assault on campus.
In the wake of the International Day to Decriminalize Abortion, we ask El Salvador to stop oppressing their women.
We ask to please appeal this ban that is greatly harming the physical health and wellbeing of women.
The health of women should be a guaranteed international human right, not something that pregnant women are punished for when they have complications.
The right to abortion should be the choice of the woman, not her state.