Friday, February 24, 2017

El Salvador considering proposal to increase jail sentences of women seeking abortions

National Catholic Reporter (Feb. 21, 2017): El Salvador's proposal to increase jail sentences of women seeking abortions must be rejected, by Natasha Reifenberg, Alexis Doyle and Aly Cox: 

Earlier this week El Salvador began debating a proposal that would increase the punishment that women face for having an abortion to 30 to 50 years.  El Salvador is one a few countries that both criminalizes and actively prosecutes women who have had, or who are suspected of having, an abortion.  Current criminal penalties for women who have abortions are two to eight years, although many women in El Salvador are serving much longer sentences after being accused of murder following miscarriages or stillbirths.

Voto Catolico, a group "committed to increasing participation of Salvadorian Catholics" in politics praised the effort which would place El Salvador "at the forefront of the most pro-life legislation in the entire world."  But not all pro-life Catholics agree.  This opinion piece in the National Catholic Reporter argues that "drastically increasing the sentencing of women who have sought abortions is neither pro-life nor affirmative of Catholic values."  The authors note that 

the persons most likely to face actual prosecution under this law are poor women facing crisis pregnancies, which directly contests the church's preferential option for the poor and only serves to further marginalize poor women facing crisis pregnancies receiving care in public hospitals. A truly pro-life society would seek to support and empower impoverished women through increased counseling, education, social services, proper prenatal care, post-abortive healing resources, and support of strong families and supportive fathers.

Although maintaining that abortion is a sin, the authors argue that "[a] law that could incarcerate women who seek abortions for 50 years is not reflective of the church's teachings on mercy and forgiveness and only succeeds in eclipsing everything that has been said in light of the Jubilee Year of Mercy."  Pope Francis declared 2016, Jubilee Year of Mercy and emphasized that women who have had abortions and have repented should be forgiven and not punished.

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