International Humanist and Ethical Union
UN Human Rights Council, 43rd Session (24th February – 20th March 2020)
Universal Periodic Review of El Salvador
We are pleased to hear that El Salvador has accepted several recommendations on ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for women. Unfortunately, this is not enough.
El Salvador has not accepted any of the recommendations urging the decriminalization of abortion, exempting health professionals and public officials from reporting women suspected of having an abortion to the authorities, nor the ones suggesting that women should not be criminally prosecuted for miscarriages.
Human rights law and human rights bodies are clear: access to abortion is a matter of human rights and an essential sexual and reproductive health right. A state should not uphold discriminatory policies that limit women’s rights, infringe women’s autonomy, or drive women and girls to have unsafe abortions that may lead to entirely preventable deaths or imprisonment without a single exception for cases of rape, incest, fetal impairment or with any regards to the woman’s life.
The criminalization of abortion does not omit abortions from happening. Instead, it forces women to have unsafe abortions endangering their lives and health, and statistics show that it drives pregnant women in El Salvador to suicide. This is a health issue as much as a women’s rights issue.
More than 150 women and girls have been prosecuted for allegedly having abortions since it became illegal under all circumstances in 1998. Women and girls can face up to 40 years of imprisonment for miscarriages or illegal abortions. Very often, these women and girls have spent long periods in pretrial detention. These numbers are in no way justifiable.
Domestic laws do not exempt states from their international human rights obligations. Therefore, we urge El Salvador to amend article 133 of the Criminal Code and legalize abortions.
'UPR statement on El Salvador', Humanists International