The case of Evelyn Hernandez has gained a lot of media attention in recent years. The Latino woman was convicted three years ago of aggravated murder, after delivering a stillborn in a toilet at home. In a new trial, the El Salvador native has been acquitted, marking an extraordinary leap forward for women's rights, according to Buzzfeed News. Hernandez fell pregnant after being raped by a local gang member as a teenager but remained unaware of the pregnancy until she delivered the newborn in the toilet of her El Salvador home. When she woke up after the ordeal, she was in an emergency room, with police already on the scene.
It's not unusual for women to be charged with homicide after miscarrying a baby in El Salvador, where it's strictly illegal to abort a child no matter the circumstances. Even if the mother is at risk of dying, the law remains firm. When the case first reached courts, Hernandez's defense argued scientific evidence had been ignored. This time around, they focused on evidence of meconium in the baby's lungs, which indicated it died from asphyxiation.
Despite having served 33 months in prison already, the prosecutors were hoping to re-convict Hernandez and add a further ten years onto her sentence, making it a 40-year stretch. The case is seen as a triumph for women across Latin America, with hoards of supporters waiting outside the courtroom to congratulate Hernandez on her exit.
The incident occurred on April 2016 when Hernandez started to experience severe stomach pains. When she went to use the restroom she gave birth to a child, who was later found in the septic tank. Hernandez and her mother, who discovered her daughter, claimed they had no idea the fetus was in there. Post-mortem examinations weren't able to determine if the fetus had passed away before or after it reached the tank.
Police believed Hernandez had purposefully induced an abortion, which is strictly illegal. By the time the new trial was ordered earlier this year, the 21-year-old woman had already spent three years behind bars. If found guilty, Hernandez likely wouldn't have been released until she was in her fifties.