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Sentenced to 30 years in prison for abortion, Evelyn Hernandez, here on August 16, 2019 in Ciudad Delgado, was retried in a second trial and now faces 40 years in prison. REUTERS / Jose Cabezas

She has become a symbol of women far beyond El Salvador. Evelyn Hernandez, 21, faces 40 years in prison for giving birth to a stillborn baby. In this small country in Central America, anti-abortion legislation is one of the strictest in the world and this judicial series that has lasted for 3 years has reopened the debate on the decriminalization of abortion.

At the time of the incident, Evelyn Hernandez is 18 years old. She lives in a gang-controlled neighborhood in rural Cuzcatlan. On several occasions, she will be raped, but like many women, she will not file a complaint for fear of reprisals.

One day, violent abdominal pains are triggered. In the bathroom, she bleeds profusely, gives birth to a baby and faints. The autopsy establishes that the newborn is 32 weeks old and has died from a lung infection.

She explains that she was not aware that she was pregnant and that the baby was already dead at the time of delivery. The hospital, for its part, qualifies the abortion incident, and is therefore obliged to inform the authorities.

Sentenced to 30 years in prison

In El Salvador, whatever the circumstances, abortion is prohibited and heavily penalized. Evelyn Hernandez is then sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide.

Thanks to the mobilization of its lawyers and women's organizations, the decision was annulled. For this second trial, the Salvadoran public prosecutor's office changed her charge: Evelyn Hernandez is no longer charged with aggravated homicide with premeditation but negligent homicide. Justice has required 40 years in prison, the verdict will be Monday, August 19.

The defense requests that the young woman be released on parole in order to create a legal precedent until the young Nayib Bukele, who has just taken office as President of El Salvador, opens the debate on the issue. abortion as he had committed during his campaign.