The Manuela Case: The Fraud Behind the Legalization of Abortion in Latin America

by Denisse María Benítez Nassar



Warning: This article contains descriptions of violence against other human beings.


Pro-abortion groups are using false abortion stories and cases to achieve its legalization, a strategy similar to that used in the United States in the Roe vs. Wade case. The case of Manuela is one that the pro-abortion movement in El Salvador has passed off as a miscarriage and medical violence, despite an investigation revealing on the contrary infanticide against newborn babies. These cases are referred to as “The 17+”, seventeen women who were sentenced to 30 years in prison for the aggravated murder of their own children. Many of these children were killed by strangulation, as revealed by police evidence, forensic reports, and psychological studies made publicly available. When we hear horror stories like these, we should keep a critical eye to the facts, as the pro-abortion side has distorted tragedies to their ends in similar cases in other countries. The importance of the Manuela Case is that it is the first to arrive before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; later, other cases will be pushed to increase the pressure of the international media on the national legislation of Latin American countries with abortion restrictions.


Are there women imprisoned in El Salvador due to abortion?

Raúl Melara, Attorney General of the Republic of El Salvador, says no woman is serving a sentence for the crime of abortion in El Salvador. The sentence given to these women is aggravated homicide, with a minimum sentence of 30 years in jail, as opposed to the sentence for induced abortion, which ranges from six months to eight years. In El Salvador, even though induced abortion is illegal, the sentence is generally so short that judges prefer to give these women community service rather than jail time. For comparison, the sentence for doctors or pharmacists who conduct abortions is between six to ten years.


We must understand that the sentences given are proportional to the culpability of the person who committed the act, not the value of the victim, which does not change and is intrinsic to the human condition. The law understands that a woman may find herself in a difficult situation, and therefore assigns the minimum penalty. The legalization of abortion prevents these unjust situations in which women find themselves from coming into the light.


Who is Manuela and what happened to her?

“Manuela” is the pseudonym given by a feminist collective to María Edis Hernández de Castro. She was sentenced in 2008 to 30 years in prison by the court in San Francisco Gotea, El Salvador. The court found her guilty of aggravated homicide and prejudice against her newborn. María Edis Hernández died in prison in 2010 from lymphatic cancer that she had suffered from since 2007.


His name was Dolores Gabriel Hernández

María Edis Hernández de Castro gave birth to Dolores Gabriel in her room, then ripped the umbilical cord from the baby, leaving him with a hole in his stomach. Afterward, she left her son in the latrine approximately 20 meters from the house. Later, María Edis fainted and was taken to the hospital by her father, where the medical team noticed the umbilical cord. They asked her where the baby was, to which she responded that there was no baby and that she had not been pregnant. The medical team proceeded to call the police to help find the missing patient. The body of Dolores Gabriel was found by firefighters, naked and covered in feces and blood inside of the latrine. The forensic doctor found feces in his mouth and nose that he had aspirated. The forensic team was unable to determine if Gabriel’s death was caused by asphyxia from the feces or by the bleeding caused by the aggressive ripping of the umbilical cord. The forensic team determined that his death was slow and agonizing, taking 10 to 15 minutes. Dolores Gabriel was a fully formed baby at 40 weeks of gestation.


The Pro-choice Narratives

When we read the newspapers, we realize that the story that the pro-abortion side changes and contains many inconsistencies. Furthermore, around International Women's Day we find ourselves surrounded on social media by various infographics, blog articles and pro-choice journals about this terrible event. Some say that “Manuela” (while always changing the real names to discourage searches into the official facts available to the public, in order to create confusion) died of preeclampsia, others that she died of cancer, others that she died in the hospital handcuffed to the bed, some even that she didn’t know that she was pregnant because she was from humble means and low education.


Despite all the proofs presented before the court, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Citizens Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic, Ethical, and Eugenic Abortions, and the Feminist Collective for Local Development brought this case and more to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. They alleged that Dolores’ death was caused by obstetric violence and that the death of María Edis would not have happened if she had received a “safe” induced abortion, and that her condition worsened due to a sentence that was unjust and she should not have received in the first place. They also alleged that the medical team broke their obligation of confidentiality by reporting María Edis to the police, when in reality they only fulfilled their responsibility of finding the child patient.


The IACHR accepted the appeal, but never referred to abortion, instead investigating whether María Edis received adequate medicine and care while she was under the custody of the state in prison.


Manuela VS El Salvador

The IACHR is a judicial organ of the Organization of American States, establishing the minimum standard required for human rights in all the countries that have signed its treaty. There are 24 member countries of the IACHR: Argentina, Barbados, Brasil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, República Dominicana, Ecuador, El Salvador, Granada, Guatemala, Haití, Honduras, Jamaica, México, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú, Surinam, Uruguay y Venezuela. These countries already conform to a higher legal standard of human rights than that established by the Court, but the rulings of the Court will affect all of Latin America, exerting a great pressure to legalize abortion across the continent.


Latin America is a pro-life region. The legalization of abortion in these countries requires some type of corruption or higher political pressure: for example, the case of Argentina, where the president threatened senators with a reduction in the budgets of their home provinces if they did not pass the abortion law this year.


March 10 and 11 marked the general hearing for the case before the Judges Humberto Antonio Sierra Porto, Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni, Eduardo Vio Grossi y Elizabeth Odio. Will the judges make their decision in accordance with the defense of human rights? Unfortunately, I don’t believe the decision will be made from a neutral standpoint because at least one judge, Elizabeth Odio, has already outspokenly aligned herself with the pro-choice movement.


While we are still awaiting the results of the hearing, it is important that all of Latin America learns of this case. When there is a similar case in your country, pay attention to how the pro-choice side handles it and compare the details given with the official reports. We must learn the mechanisms of disinformation and marketing so we don’t allow ourselves to be manipulated by sentimentalism and sad stories — stories which are undeniably tragic but often have major details distorted or completely falsified. The act of using our human capacity for empathy in order to manipulate our ideas based on false stories is a form of dehumanization. Neither should we deny the tragedies regularly faced by women and children in many of our countries. We must make law that is based in fact and the human rights of ALL human beings, not just those deemed worthy by the pro-choice political project. Objectivity will always lead us to the truth.


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