SAN SALVADOR – Maira Veronica Figueroa, sentenced to 30 years in prison for abortion, regained on Tuesday her freedom after serving half her sentence and having the other half commuted by the Salvadoran government after a favorable ruling on the case issued by the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ).
Figueroa was sent to prison in 2003 at age 19 after being found guilty of aggravated homicide after she suffered an obstetric problem in a home where she was working as a maid, defense attorney Ana Martinez told EFE.
Martinez said that on Jan. 31, 2017, the non-governmental organizations Agrupacion Ciudadana and the Reproductive Rights Center asked the CSJ to commute Figueroa’s sentence, a move that was authorized by the high court last March 22.
She said that Figueroa was released on Tuesday after serving 15 years of her sentence, the minimum time after which she would be eligible for commutation of her sentence.
Upon her departure from the Ilopango Women’s Prison, Figueroa expressed her thanks for the support she received during the legal proceedings and said that she will now fight so that women who are in prison for abortion may go free.
“I’m very happy to see my family once again ... I hope that (the CSJ) gives the others (who are in prison) the chance, like they gave me,” she said.
Figueroa was welcomed back to the outside world by an activist group from Agrupacion Ciudadana, her family, assorted friends and Teodora Vasquez, who was released on Feb. 15 after spending 10 years behind bars for abortion and having been denied release on several earlier occasions.
Vasquez said she was happy about the release of someone who had been her friend behind bars and also reaffirmed her own commitment to fight so that other women imprisoned for similar crimes can recover their freedom.
El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Suriname, Andorra and Malta are the world’s only countries to absolutely forbid abortion.
In October 2016, El Salvador’s Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN) proposed to the country’s Congress that abortion be decriminalized in cases of rape, mortal risk to the mother or the inability of the fetus to survive, although the opposition has called for abortion penalties to be increased to up to 50 years in prison.