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  • Yo no dí a luz

    The argument over when the human life begins is one of the most contentious in our world today. There are 66 countries that prohibit abortion under nearly all circumstances—though almost all of them exclude cases where the mother’s life is in danger. But in five of these nations, there are no exceptions. This dramatic repression of reproductive rights in el salvador, nicaragua, dominican republic, malta, and the vatican forbids the practice even in situations of rape, incest, unviable fetus, or risk to the mother’s life.
    Pregnant women in today’s el salvador face a number of challenges from zika virus, which has been linked to the condition of microcephaly in newborns, to the constant threat of gang violence. Many are victims of rape, often associated with gang initiations as well as high levels of incest, with many, alarmingly between the ages of 10 and 14. However the most important threat to women’s reproductive rights is by far the state’s criminal ban on abortion. Since el salvador’s absolute abortion ban came into law in 1998, some 150 women have been prosecuted under it. Doctors and nurses in public hospitals are required by the law to report any suspicious alteration to the authorities and provoking criminal charges, which can lead to between 6 months to 7 years in prison. It is the poorer class of women who suffer the most, as doctors in private hospitals are not required to give information. Some women are even sentenced to up to 40-year prison terms for what are essentially still births. They are known as the “mata niños,” roughly 25-30 women imprisoned and serving between 30 to 50 year sentences on homicide charges for allegedly killing their newborn children. Prosecutors argue against the nature of science, accusing women of willing themselves to expel their premature babies, creating an environment where women are persecuted for the mere natural failures of their own bodies.

  • August 2016-Suchitoto, El Salvador: Midwives Tomasa Torres and Lolita examine Maria Laura Linares, 24 years old and 18 weeks pregnant in the Mazatepeque Community. The midwifes association known as Rosa Andrades was formed in 1992, directly after the countries civil war came to a close. The founding midwifes are ex guerillas who began assisting births out of necessity, sometimes while hiding in isolated mountainous regions and/or refugee camps in Honduras. They are 28 strong working in 41 communities and municipalities in the region of Suchitoto. Although they still assist women who birth want to birth at home the law now prohibits assisting in home births. The midwives focus their efforts on prenatal checkups in areas with difficult access to health centers and offer birth control at a discounted rate. Although they are not supported or recognized by the health ministry they serve as trusted members of their community.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-May 2016: Families gather at the general cemetary to pay tribute to their mothers on Mother's Day.
  • Planes de Renderos, El Salvador-May 2016: Abigail Sanches from San Luis Stalpa la Paz waiting to be examined at the maternal waiting house which especially helps women who come from areas without access to a nearby hospital wait out the end of the pregnancies in order to be close to a hospital and avoid complications.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-May 2016: A pro life wall mural adorns the wall in a side street on the main highway from Chalatenango to San Salvador. The society has over time embraced the abortion ban for the most part.
  • San Luis Del Carmen, Chalatenango, El Salvador-May 2016: Milagro Castro, 24 years old and a few weeks shy of 5 months pregnant contracted Zika at 9 weeks and lives in fear the she will give birth to a deformed baby. But she puts her faith in god.
  • Panchmalco, El Salvador-May 2016: Women of the community carry the Virgin Mary on their backs on a procession through the town of Panchimalco. The annual Palms Festival features a procession of the Virgin Mary through the town's narrow streets and attracts people from all over the country as well as internationally who come to idolize her.
  • Panchmalco, El Salvador-May 2016: Churchgoers pay tribute to the Virgin Mary at a mass as part of the annual Palms Festival features a procession of the Virgin Mary through the town's narrow streets and attracts people from all over the country as well as internationally who come to idolize her.
  • Panchmalco, El Salvador-May 2016: The queen of the annual Palms Festival eating lunch with the whole town at her home. The festival features a procession of the Virgin Mary through the town's narrow streets and attracts people from all over the country as well as internationally who come to idolize her. Young women such as her who live in gang controlled neighborhoods are under increasing risk of being raped and forced to date gang members.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-May 2016: Dra. María Isabel Rodríguez, Director of the"Hospital Nacional de la Mujer" in San Salvador congratulates Brenda Molina, 34 years old on her newly born twins, the second to be born on Mother's Day in the city.
  • Planes de Renderos, El Salvador-May 2016: Pregnant women line up to receive mosquito repellent at the maternal waiting house in Planes de Renderos. The women were told they would receive repellent and mosquito nets at an event sponsored by the Canadian Embassy, WFP and the Ministry of Health however, after the press conference, the nets were reloaded into a truck and sent to a hospital.
  • Sonsonate, El Salvador-May 2016: María Tamayo examines Flor Marlene Morales at the maternal waiting house in Sonsonate. Flor, who is 15 and from the Juayua municipality arrived at the clinic 40 weeks pregnant, by herself. Her father was assasinated by gangs and she lives with an aunt and her grandmother. The maternal waiting houses especially help women who come from areas without access to a nearby hospital wait out the end of the pregnancies in order to be close to a hospital and avoid complications.
  • August 2017, Suchitoto, El Salvador: Maria Christina Mendez Hernandez, 17 years old and 38 weeks pregnant at the maternal waiting house in the pueblo of Suchitoto. Maria Chistina comes from a hard to reach rural community known as pepestenango on the outskirts of Suchitoto. The maternal waiting house program is part of a program by the health ministry to reduce maternal death rates in the country by offering women who come from rural or precarious home environments to wait out their pregnanceis near a hospital.
  • Sonsonate, El Salvador-May 2016: Flor Marlene Morales in labor at the maternal waiting house in Sonsonate. who is 15 and from the Juayua municipality arrived at the clinic 40 weeks pregnant, by herself. Her father was assasinated by gangs and she lives with an aunt and her grandmother. The maternal waiting houses especially help women who come from areas without access to a nearby hospital wait out the end of the pregnancies in order to be close to a hospital and avoid complications.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-May 2016: Nereyda Elizabeth Chaves Torres on her mother's bed, with her sister and one and a half year old brother, who she helps take care of in their one room home shared by 9 family members in the "Comunidad Alemana", a narrow alleyway nestled in between upper class houses in the Antiguo Cuscatlan neighborhood. Nereyda, 19 years old who is 7 months pregnant and was abandoned by the babies father at 4 months, can't afford to use mosquito repelent to protect herself from the Zika virus. Her mother sells street food and her father sells water bottles on buses all day. The family puts aside a percentage of the days earnings in a plastic bottle that will go towards pampers for the newborn, "Jeremy" in a couple months. Nereyda is indicative of the majority of pregnant women in El Salvador almost half of which are between the ages of 15-19 years old and in poverty.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-May 2016: Nurses wrap a new born twin during a press conference for the first babies born on Mother's Day. The first babies born on mother's day were celebrated with press cameras rolling at the "Hospital Nacional de la Mujer" in San Salvador.
  • August 2016-Suchitoto, El Salvador: Pentacostals in a pick up truck outside of The Santa Lucia Cathedral in Suchitoto.
  • August 2017, Suchitoto, El Salvador: Ulissa Estefany La Ines, 19 years old with Rocio Elizabeth Nieto, 33 years old from San Martin, her nurse helping her through exams at the health clinic for, while she stays at the maternal waiting house. Elizabeth comes from a hard to reach rural community known as Canton El Cereto on the outskirts of Suchitoto. The maternal waiting house program is part of a program by the health ministry to reduce maternal death rates in the country by offering women who come from rural or precarious home environments to wait out their pregnanceis near a hospital.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-May 2016: Sanitation workers of the community health clinic in the Santa Tecla are fumigate houses, streets, sewers, and schools against mosquitos, as part of a government program to fight mosquito born diseases Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya.
  • Tacuba, El Salvador-October, 2017: Members of Teodora's family and community members celebrating a catholic procession in which the Virgin May is passed from house to house. Teodora Del Carmen Vásquez De Saldaña suffered a miscarriage in 2007 and was imprisoned on accusations of homicide of her newborn baby. She has been in prison since while her family helps raise her now 14 year old son Angel. Angel was 4 years old when Teodora was sentenced and used to wait by the door in his best clothes on Saturdays waiting for his mom, as that was the day she usually returned home from her city job during the week.
  • Tacuba, El Salvador-October, 2017: Members of Teodora's family and community members celebrating a catholic procession in which the Virgin May is passed from house to house. Teodora Del Carmen Vásquez De Saldaña suffered a miscarriage in 2007 and was imprisoned on accusations of homicide of her newborn baby. She has been in prison since while her family helps raise her now 14 year old son Angel. Angel was 4 years old when Teodora was sentenced and used to wait by the door in his best clothes on Saturdays waiting for his mom, as that was the day she usually returned home from her city job during the week.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-May 2016: Pigeons storm the square in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador, where 44 people were killed at the funeral of Archbishop Óscar Romero who was assassinated while giving mass in another small chapel in 1980.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-May 2016: Maria Teresa Rivera reacts to her sentence annulment in Federal Court, chanting "God exists" with a photo of her son, Oscar in her hand. The Supreme Court annulled María Teresa Rivera's 40 year sentence for aggravated homicide of her prematurely born infant after she had already served 4 years in jail, barely able to see her son who was being taken care of by her ill mother in a violent gang controlled neighborhood. After a careful review of the medical evidence and all the facts the judge stipulated that there was not enough proof of evidence that she intentionally killed her child and ordered that reparations be made to her for her time served.
  • August 2017, Suchitoto, El Salvador: Maria Christina Mendez Hernandez (left), 17 years old gives birth at the Suchitoto National Hospital. Maria Chistina comes from a hard to reach rural community known as pepestenango on the outskirts of Suchitoto. She was housed in the maternal waiting house program to reduce maternal death rates in the country by offering women who come from rural or precarious home environments to wait out their pregnanceis near a hospital.
  • Sonsonate, El Salvador-May 2016: A courtroom in the Federal Court House of Sonsonate awaiting trial of a woman accused of homicide of her infant child.
  • San Julián, Sonsonate, El Salvador-May 2016: Flor pulls corn off of the husks in preparation to make tortillas while her daughter Mary plays off to her side, just a week after her trial. Flor Arely Sanchez Paz was acquitted on homicide charges of her prematurely born child. Flor spent 9 months in a holding cell awaiting her trial, while her elderly mother did her best to care for her 5 children and as a result of her incarceration, Flor lost her badly needed job. She faced 40 years in prison, although the judge did not see sufficient evidence that there was an intentional homicide. The prosecution argued that Flor intentionally expelled her baby prematurely along with other fantastical accusations.
  • San Julián, Sonsonate, El Salvador-May 2016: Flor Arely Sanchez Paz was acquitted on homicide charges of her prematurely born child. Flor spent 9 months in a holding cell awaiting her trial, while her elderly mother did her best to care for her 5 children and as a result of her incarceration, Flor lost her badly needed job. She faced 40 years in prison, although the judge did not see sufficient evidence that there was an intentional homicide. The prosecution argued that Flor intentionally expelled her baby prematurely along with other fantastical accusations.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-October, 2017: A pro-life statue which was erected with support of the mayor's office stands in a public square, ironically adjacent to the private hospital section of San Salvador, as women who illegally abort in El Salvador are generally the women with more means who frequent these hospitals.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-October, 2017: Teodora Del Carmen Vásquez De Saldaña in the women's prison in Ilopango. Teodora suffered a miscarriage in 2007 and was imprisoned on accusations of homicide of her newborn baby. She has been in prison since while her family helps raise her now 14 year old son Angel. Angel was 4 years old when Teodora was sentenced and used to wait by the door in his best clothes on Saturdays waiting for his mom, as that was the day she usually returned home from her city job during the week.
  • Tacuba, El Salvador-October, 2017: Teodora's brother, creates a costume for a family member in the Teodora's family's house, where she has been missed for 9 years. Teodora Del Carmen Vásquez De Saldaña suffered a miscarriage in 2007 and was imprisoned on accusations of homicide of her newborn baby. She has been in prison since while her family helps raise her now 14 year old son Angel. Angel was 4 years old when Teodora was sentenced and used to wait by the door in his best clothes on Saturdays waiting for his mom, as that was the day she usually returned home from her city job during the week.
  • August, 2017-Istagua, Cuscatlan, El Salvador: A shirt hangs to dry at a house in Istagua.
  • Santa Cruz Michapa, El Salvador-October, 2017: Yessenia Carolina Dias Rivas and Elias Eduardo Diaz Rivas in the rented home where they are living with their grandparents, uncles and aunts who are helping raise them while their mother serves a 30 year sentence in prison. Salvadora Carolina Diaz Rivas has been in prison for 9 years. She has been accused of having killed her newborn baby, a crime she now admits to, although her trial records show that she was forced to kill the baby by the father who was a gang member. She has not seen her other two children since she went to prison who are now 11 and 13 and live with their grandparents.
  • August, 2017- Valle Verde, Cuscatlan, El Salvador: A chicken coup.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-May 2016: A playground at the foot of the "Comunidad Alemana", a narrow alleyway stacked with one room houses and nestled between upper class homes in the Antiguo Cuscatlan neighborhood.
  • Tacuba, El Salvador-October, 2017: Teodora's niece, Jessica who she has never met plays with a picture of her on the dining room table in her house. Teodora Del Carmen Vásquez De Saldaña suffered a miscarriage in 2007 and was imprisoned on accusations of homicide of her newborn baby. She has been in prison since while her family helps raise her now 14 year old son Angel. Angel was 4 years old when Teodora was sentenced and used to wait by the door in his best clothes on Saturdays waiting for his mom, as that was the day she usually returned home from her city job during the week.
  • August 2016-Suchitoto, El Salvador: Midwife Pati Hernandez at her home with her grandaughter Dasha, 3 months old. The midwifes association known as Rosa Andrades was formed in 1992, directly after the country's civil war came to a close. The founding midwifes are ex guerillas who began assisting births out of necessity, sometimes while hiding in isolated mountainous regions and/or refugee camps in Honduras. They are 28 strong working in 41 communities and municipalities in the region of Suchitoto. Although they still assist women who want to birth at home the law now prohibits assisting in home births. Yet another regulation to control women's reproductive lives in El Salvador. The midwives focus their efforts on prenatal checkups in areas with difficult access to health centers and offer birth control at a discounted rate. Although they are not supported by the health ministry they could be a strong asset within the healthcare system as they are trusted members of their community.
  • August, 2017-Nancito Cuscatland, El Salvador: The patricarch of a household in Nancito practicing Evangelist Christianity.
  • August, 2017-Nancito Cuscatland, El Salvador: A household in Nancito practicing Evangelist Christianity.
  • August 2016-Suchitoto, El Salvador: A young girl flies a balloon outside of The Suchitoto Municipal Hospital.
  • August, 2017-Nancito Cuscatland, El Salvador: Jasmin and Sandra with Jasim's young sister on their way to the river. The young girls live in a household in Nancito practicing Evangelist Christianity.
  • August, 2017- Istagua, Cucatlan, El Salvador: Head midwife of the Rosa Andrade miswives group performs a pre-natal check up on Gladis Molina, 24 years old and 37 weeks pregnant.
  • August 2016-Suchitoto, El Salvador: The maternity ward at The Suchitoto Municipal Hospital.
  • August, 2017- Valle Verde, Cuscatlan, El Salvador: Pati, head midwife of the Rosa Andrade Parteras performs a prenatal exam.
  • Planes de Renderos, El Salvador-May 2016: Idalia Alverado Sanchez and her husband Alex in an intimate moment awaiting the arrival of their first child together at the maternal waiting house which especially help women who come from areas without access to a nearby hospital wait out the end of the pregnancies in order to be close to a hospital and avoid complications. This is 21 year old Idalia's 3rd child, the first of which she had when she was 13.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-October, 2017: Salvadora Cande Bela Vasquez was raped under a tree in front of her house by 10 gang members. Her son Manuel who is 5 was born thereafter although she believes he is not a product of the rape. Cande has 4 children by a man who continually abuses her and is an alcoholic. Her living situation is extremely deprived.
  • August, 2017-Nancito Cuscatland, El Salvador: LIdia, handicapped swims in the river near her home which is a household in Nancito practicing Evangelist Christianity.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-October, 2017: Salvadora Cande Bela Vasquez was raped under a tree in front of her house by 10 gang members. Her son Manuel who is 5 was born thereafter although she believes he is not a product of the rape. Cande has 4 children by a man who continually abuses her and is an alcoholic. Her living situation is extremely deprived.
  • August, 2016-Santa Elena, El Salvador: Norma Guttierez, 25 years old, changes her two month old baby, Norma named after her who is afflicted with microcephaly, her doctors believe due to her contracting Zika while in her first trimester of pregnancy. Norma and her husband have 2 other young girls and are quite poor. They have already paid $120 out of pocket for tests and medicine which is quite a lot for them and the hospital visits are very far. They are worried about baby Norma's future and can't believe this happened to them. Norma was using a mosquito net while sleeping at night but cannot afford insect repellent.
  • San Salvador, El Salvador-May 2016: Sanitation workers of the community health clinic in the Santa Tecla are fumigate houses, streets, sewers, and schools against mosquitos, as part of a government program to fight mosquito born diseases Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya.