El Salvador releases woman jailed over abortion

San Salvador (AFP) –


A Salvadoran woman serving a 30-year jail sentence for having an abortion was released from prison on Thursday on the orders of the Supreme Court, her lawyer said.

Wearing a white T-shirt, Teodora Vasquez was greeted by her family and members of organizations who fought her case in the courts as she left a Women's Rehabilitation Center outside San Salvador. Among those lining up to embrace her were her parents and 14-year-old son.

"She is free. Teodora is free, happy to recover her freedom after going through a whole ordeal, and she has already reunited with her family and is returning home," a spokesman for the Citizens' Association for the Decriminalization of Abortion, Jorge Menjivar, told AFP.

Vasquez was convicted in 2008 of aggravated homicide, months after suffering a stillbirth in her ninth month of pregnancy in 2007.

A national court upheld the sentence in a ruling in December which backed the country's severe anti-abortion laws, despite rights organizations arguing that she was unfairly incarcerated after having the stillbirth.

Vasquez, now 34, served 11 years of the sentence.

Her lawyer Victor Hugo Mata said her sentence had been commuted by the Supreme Court and the justice ministry.

The Supreme Court provided no details of its decision.

Under a law that came into force in 1998, all abortions are illegal in El Salvador, regardless of whether the pregnancy resulted from rape or posed a medical threat to the woman.

Prison terms range from two to eight years, but women can be charged with more serious crimes instead, as in Vasquez's case.

Twenty-six other women are currently incarcerated in the small Central American country for falling foul of the strict stance against abortion.