How the pro-life movement became entrenched in El Salvador

Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - 10:20 in Psychology & Sociology

The cases are harrowing, and they keep accumulating. El Salvadoran women and girls who give birth to stillborn babies are originally charged with abortion, and then ultimately sentenced to decades in prison for “aggravated homicide.” To date, Jocelyn Viterna, a Weatherhead Center faculty associate and professor of sociology at Harvard, has collected 51 such cases. Most are destitute young women who live far from medical care — women who didn’t even know they were pregnant, many the victims of rape. Another 20 cases involve young women incarcerated and charged with “abortion.” Viterna learned about the first cases in the mid-2000s when she was doing research for her book about female guerilla fighters, “Women in War: The Micro-processes of Mobilization in El Salvador,” and she said she couldn’t turn away. When she looked closely at the evidence presented in each case, it was clear that gender bias was rampant in the judicial...

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