New documentary: Mexican women incarcerated for “homicide” after aborting gain their freedom

This is the story of how Mexican organizers and lawyers were able to free six women incarcerated for homicide for terminating their pregnancies. 

In 2008, I attended the School of Authentic Journalism in Mexico as a student for the first time. Last week, I attended the school for the 5th time and for the 4th time as a teacher. Every year I’ve attended, I’m blown away by the people I meet. Karina Gonzalez and I met when we were both students in 2008. And as we caught up this year, I was thrilled to learn about what she had been up to.

Karina works for Las Libres, an organization which educates and advocates for women’s human rights in Guanajuato and greater Mexico. One of the organization’s projects has been the fight to free six women — four from Guanajuato and two from Guerrero — who were imprisoned for homicide after terminating their pregnancies. The women were sentenced to between 20 and 30 years in jail.

In addition to facing a cruel and unusual punishment, the two women from Guerrero, Virginia Cruz and Adriana Manzanares, literally had no idea what was happening to them. They couldn’t even communicate, because they didn’t speak Spanish when they were prosecuted and imprisoned. They only spoke a Tlapaneco dialect and were not provided with an interpreter. It was only after serving two years and learning Spanish that the women learned what they had been accused of.

The case of Adriana Manzanares is a especially frightening example of the way different forms of sexism interact. Adriana didn’t actually terminate her pregnancy. She miscarried. And when her community found out, they threw stones at her. Even more perverse is the fact that Adriana miscarried because she had already been hit with stones and rocks for committing adultery. Adriana’s husband had been gone for years working in the United States, so she started a relationship with a man who would become her boyfriend and became pregnant. When her husband came back he beat his pregnant wife. Then Adriana’s father beat her. And finally, members of the community beat her. So some of the very people who beat Adriana and caused her miscarriage would later throw stones at her for miscarrying.

Luckily, Las Libres publicized the cases in the media and worked with lawyers at the CIDE (Center for Research and Teaching in Economics) who represented the women. Thanks to their hard work, as well as the resolve of the imprisoned women, the government released the six from jail.

Filmmaker Gustavo Gustavo Montaña made a documentary about the struggle called Las Libres, (The Free). Karina says the film — as well as members of her organization and some of las libres — will be coming to show the film in New York City this summer. We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer above.


Argentina imprisons woman for getting an abortion, along with the friends who helped her

In Argentina, three women have been incarcerated. One for having an abortion, two for accompanying her to get the procedure.

Susana D, as she’s referred to in the press, went to the hospital in June because of severe abdominal pain. It turned out she had sepsis, a blood infection, and was in intensive care for weeks. Her doctor suspected that the sepsis had been caused by an abortion, which is illegal in Argentina, except for in cases of rape, incest or when the health or life of the pregnant person is at risk. The doctor reported her to the police, who arrested and incarcerated Susana along with the two women who had accompanied her to get the abortion. According to Manuela Castañeira, director of the Argentine women’s group “Las Rojas,” the three women have been in jail for two months, in a cell with no water, no electricity, and one mattress for the three of them.

Susana wasn’t charged with abortion, but rather with homicide of a blood relative. This crime applies to people who kill their spouse, sibling, parent or child. In an e-mail, Castañeira described the situation:

Susana D. is in jail in Jujuy, a province in Argentina with a disastrous record on women’s rights… [It is] the province with the highest number of rapes of women, and the lowest number of people imprisoned for rape in all of Argentina. Susana wanted to terminate a pregnancy and she had an abortion and [she and two more women] are now in prison for helping Susana.

Susana is now in jail not for having an abortion, but for aggravated homicide of a family member, which is illegal, since this crime only applies to killing a husband, a sibling or an immediate relative. This is scandalous! Nor is this a case of infanticide, since she didn’t kill a newborn baby but rather had an abortion.

This is a total violation of women’s rights, an injustice that has been committed by the state and all of its institutions from the public health system to criminal justice system.

This woman is the expression of the necessity of the legalization of abortion in Argentina. Today there is still no legal justification for incarcerating these women, it’s a totally illegal situation, since they are holding them in what is called “preventative prison” because of the possibility that they will flee and let’s remember that there isn’t a single rapist or murderer in Argentina being held in in “preventative prison,” so the real criminals are always free, but women aren’t.

In the above video, Verónica Cruz, director of the Center of Las Libres, Manuela Castañeira, director of the women’s group “Las Rojas,” and Marianne Møllmann from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission demand the release of Susana D., María G. y María C. Castañeira says, “We are launching this campaign with the release of this video which invites everyone to join and help spread the message so that the authorities in Jujuy free these three women.”

Support the campaign by using these hashtags: #SusanaLibertadYa (#FreeSusanaNow) #MaríasLibertadYa (#FreeMariaNow) #Jujuy

Also, make sure you see the movie Las Libres, about the fight to free women incarcerated for having abortions in Argentina and Mexico.


Access to and experience of later abortion: accounts from women in Scotland

by Carrie Purcell, Sharon Cameron, Lucy Caird, Gillian Flett, George Laird, Catriona Melville and Lisa M. McDaid
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health
Volume 46, Number 2, June 2014, doi: 10.1363/46e1214
CONTEXT: Except in the presence of significant medical indications, the legal limit for abortion in Great Britain is 24 weeks’ gestation. Nevertheless, abortion for non-medical reasons is not usually provided in Scotland after 18-20 weeks, meaning women have to travel to England for the procedure.
METHODS: In-depth interviews were conducted with 23 women presenting for “later” abortions (i.e., at 16 or more weeks’ gestation) in Scotland. Participants were women who sought an abortion at a participating National Health Service clinic between January and July 2013. Interviews addressed reasons for and consequences of later presentation, as well as women’s experiences of abortion. Thematic analysis attended to emerging issues and employed the conceptual tool of candidacy.
RESULTS: Delayed recognition of pregnancy, changed life circumstances and conflicting candidacies for motherhood and having an abortion were common reasons for women’s presentation for later abortion. Women perceived that the resources required to travel to England for a later abortion were potential barriers to access, and felt that such travel was distressing and stigmatizing. Participants who continued their pregnancy did so after learning they were at a later gestational age than expected or after receiving assurances of support from partners, friends or family.

CONCLUSIONS: Reasons for seeking later abortion are complex and varied among women in Scotland, and suggest that reducing barriers to access and improving local provision of such abortions are a necessity. The candidacy framework allows for a fuller understanding of the difficulties involved in obtaining abortions.

Ambassador recalled after exposing abortion scandal in Oman

Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Oman has been recalled after he ordered a probe on the activities of Foreign Employment Bureau labour officers allegedly involved in getting Lankan housemaids to undergo abortions there.

At the centre of the controversy, are labour officers, who, it is alleged, had asked a housemaid who sought refuge at the embassy to undergo abortion. A source who did not wish to be identified said the officers in question were in league with employers in Oman and helping them to overcome legal action through abortions.
Ambassador Ashoka Girihagama has been recalled to Colombo with immediate effect. His term was officially due to end on August 31, but the immediate recall is said to be the result of the inquiry he initiated. The husband of the housemaid who was asked to undergo abortion has also lodged a complaint with the Foreign Employment Bureau.

The first communication to recall the Ambassador had been issued earlier this month, but no specific date had been mentioned. However a second communication had been sent on Friday directing the ambassador to return by the end of this month.

A Foreign Ministry official said he was not aware of the decision. The housemaid in question had been brought to the embassy safe house after she was allegedly raped by the Omani sponsor. She was found to be pregnant. Thereafter, a labour officer had reportedly contacted the Omani sponsor and allegedly organised an abortion without informing the ambassador.

The ambassador had started investigating the matter following a complaint he had received. The persons in charge of the safe house had initially denied the claim, but later the ambassador had spoken to the housemaid. The woman’s husband has appealed to the President to get down his wife. He said that two persons who called over at his residence two weeks ago had wanted him to come to Colombo to meet a cabinet minister to resolve the matter. At least four Sri Lankan maids who had sought refuge at the safe house had attempted to commit suicide


Les Chiliens dans la rue pour demander la légalisation de l’avortement