If this article doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will. This is what a truly “pro-life” nation looks like. It ain’t pretty, and it’s what many lawmakers and anti-choice groups would like to see happen in the United States. You must, must must read the whole article; I’ll pull out the more important points (of which there are many) below the fold.
It was a sunny midafternoon in a shiny new global-economy mall in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, and a young woman I was hoping to meet appeared to be getting cold feet. She had agreed to rendezvous with a go-between not far from the Payless shoe store and then come to a nearby hotel to talk to me. She was an hour late. Alone in the hotel lobby, I was feeling nervous; I was stood up the day before by another woman in a similar situation. I had been warned that interviewing anyone who had had an abortion in El Salvador would be difficult. The problem was not simply that in this very Catholic country a shy 24-year-old unmarried woman might feel shame telling her story to an older man. There was also the criminal stigma. And this was why I had come to El Salvador: Abortion is a serious felony here for everyone involved, including the woman who has the abortion. Some young women are now serving prison sentences, a few as long as 30 years.
More than a dozen countries have liberalized their abortion laws in recent years, including South Africa, Switzerland, Cambodia and Chad. In a handful of others, including Russia and the United States (or parts of it), the movement has been toward criminalizing more and different types of abortions. In South Dakota, the governor recently signed the most restrictive abortion bill since the Supreme Court ruled in 1973, in Roe v. Wade, that state laws prohibiting abortion were unconstitutional. The South Dakota law, which its backers acknowledge is designed to test Roe v. Wade in the courts, forbids abortion, including those cases in which the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. Only if an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother is the procedure permitted. A similar though less restrictive bill is now making its way through the Mississippi Legislature.
Don’t let anyone tell you that anti-choicers care about women. They don’t. Their ideal policies will turn women and doctors into criminals. They will kill and maim women. They are grounded in misogyny and outright lies.
There are other countries in the world that, like El Salvador, completely ban abortion, including Malta, Chile and Colombia. El Salvador, however, has not only a total ban on abortion but also an active law-enforcement apparatus — the police, investigators, medical spies, forensic vagina inspectors and a special division of the prosecutor’s office responsible for Crimes Against Minors and Women, a unit charged with capturing, trying and incarcerating an unusual kind of criminal. Like the woman I was waiting to meet.
When you illegalize something, particularly something incredibly commonplace, law enforcement must adjust. Just look at our “war on drugs” — our prisons are packed with drug offenders. Some estimate that as many as one in three American women will have an abortion in her lifetime. Imagine criminalizing something that one in three women will do, and what kind of legal response that will necessitate.
In El Salvador, a mostly Catholic country, abortion first surfaced as a potent political issue in 1993, when conservative members of the Assembly proposed that Dec. 28, the Catholic Feast of the Holy Innocents, be declared a national day to remember the unborn. In 1995, the FMLN — the former guerrilla force that had transformed itself into the country’s main left-wing party — supported a very different proposal in the National Assembly. The proposal addressed a variety of women’s issues, including domestic violence and rape. It also contained a provision to extend the abortion exceptions to include cases in which the mother’s mental health was threatened, even if her life was not. This liberalizing proposal was rejected, but it provoked a debate, which in turn had the effect of raising the political heat around the subject of abortion.
Also in 1995, Pope John Paul II appointed a new archbishop for San Salvador, Fernando Sáenz Lacalle. Archbishops in El Salvador inherit a potent history. During the civil war, many members of the clergy in El Salvador were proponents of liberation theology, a liberal — some would say radical — evangelical doctrine of social justice. The movement was despised by the country’s right-wing leaders. In 1980, in a hospital chapel, Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero, a proponent of liberation theology, was shot and killed by a right-wing death squad while celebrating Mass. His replacement, Arturo Rivera Damas, was also a supporter of liberation theology.
The pope’s appointment of Lacalle 11 years ago brought to the Archdiocese of San Salvador a different kind of religious leader. Lacalle, an outspoken member of the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei, redirected the country’s church politics. Lacalle’s predecessors were just as firmly opposed to abortion as he was. What he brought to the country’s anti-abortion movement was a new determination to turn that opposition into state legislation and a belief that the church should play a public role in the process. In 1997, conservative legislators in the Assembly introduced a bill that would ban abortion in all circumstances. The archbishop campaigned actively for its passage.
No one should be surprised that the Catholic Church took such a strong role in this. I occassionally hesitate to criticize the Church too strongly, but this is one case where I’ll lay it on. The widespread anti-abortion policies in Latin America — only two Latin American countries (I believe) have generally legalized abortion — are largely due to the influence of the Catholic Church. Because of that influence, Latin America has all kinds of problems related to misogyny. They have incredibly high rates of spousal abuse, and in many cases there is no legal recourse. Contraception is all but impossible to obtain in numerous countries. Participation of women in the legal sphere is highly limited. And abortion, naturally, is illegal in almost all circumstances. But despite that illegality, abortion remains common throughout the continent. Brazil, for example, has a higher abortion rate than the United States. In some Latin American countries, one out of every three hospital beds is filled with a women suffering from a botched illegal abortion.
Women’s empowerment and reproductive rights are deeply and inexoribly related. Anti-choice activists aren’t interested in “saving babies,” or they’d be pushing for wider contraception access and universal healthcare. Instead, they’re willing to say anything — and I mean anything, no matter how obviously dishonest — in order to keep women indentured as servants to their biology.
Julia Regina de Cardenal runs the Yes to Life Foundation in San Salvador, which provides prenatal care and job training to poor pregnant women. She was a key advocate for the passage of the ban. She argued that the existing law’s exception for the life of the mother was outdated. As she explained to me, “There does not exist any case in which the life of the mother would be in danger, because technology has advanced so far.” De Cardenal was particularly vehement in responding in print to her opponents. As she wrote in one Salvadoran newspaper column in 1997, “The Devil, tireless Prince of Lies, has tried and will continue to try to change our laws in order to kill our babies.”
“There does not exist any case in which the life of the mother would be in danger”? I think all the friends and relatives of the women who die in childbirth or during pregnancy would beg to differ. And I’ll bet a whole lot of doctors, and women with pre-eclampsia, HELLP syndrome and dozens of other conditions, would beg to differ, too.
In January 1999, as the issue headed toward the second vote in the Assembly, Pope John Paul II visited Latin America. “The church must proclaim the Gospel of life and speak out with prophetic force against the culture of death,” he declared in Mexico City.”May the continent of hope also be the continent of life!” De Cardenal says that the pope’s visit re-energized supporters of the constitutional ban. As the vote neared, her group rolled out a series of radio ads in favor of the amendment and presented legislators with a petition of more than 500,000 signatures. At one demonstration, members of the group sprinkled the National Assembly with holy water. To punctuate her campaign, de Cardenal arranged to have two pregnant women come to the Assembly and have ultrasounds publicly performed on their fetuses.
Well, the “continent of hope” isn’t looking so hopeful when the women there remain second-class citizens and are tossed in prison for having the audacity to decide not to be pregnant. And it’s not looking like the “continent of life” when women and girls are dying because of its policies.
The legislative battle and its outcome did not escape the attention of leaders of anti-abortion groups in the United States. Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, the head of Human Life International, based in Virginia, is intimately familiar with the campaign in El Salvador and says that there are lessons for Americans to learn from it. For one thing, as Euteneuer sees it, the Salvadoran experience shows that all moves to expand abortion rights are pushed through by “elite” institutions of government (the U.S. Supreme Court, for example); by contrast, Euteneuer contends, when the laws are tightened, a grass-roots campaign is inevitably responsible. “El Salvador is an inspiration,” he told me recently, an important victory in what he called “the counterrevolution of conscience.”
That’s right: American anti-choice groups think that El Salvador is an inspiration for our country, and would like to important their laws onto American soil.
Today, Article 1 of El Salvador’s constitution declares that the prime directive of government is to protect life from the “very moment of conception.” The penal code detailing the Crimes Against the Life of Human Beings in the First Stages of Development provides stiff penalties: the abortion provider, whether a medical doctor or a back-alley practitioner, faces 6 to 12 years in prison. The woman herself can get 2 to 8 years. Anyone who helps her can get 2 to 5 years. Additionally, judges have ruled that if the fetus was viable, a charge of aggravated homicide can be brought, and the penalty for the woman can be 30 to 50 years in prison.
Many anti-choicers will tell you that they don’t want to punish women, and that they wouldn’t criminally penalize women who have illegal abortions. Well, they’re either liars or idiots. If we agree that life begins at conception, and that such a life is the moral equal of my life or yours, then ending that life through abortion is a murder equivalent to me killing you. Most anti-choicers will tell you that they believe a fertilized egg or an embryo or a fetus is a life equivalent to mine or yours (whether they actually believe this is doubtful, but let’s just take their word for it). How do you justify, then, allowing a woman to pay someone to end that life, but not prosecuting her? Wouldn’t you prosecute her if she hired a hitman to kill one of her born children? If you, anti-choicer, actually believe what you claim to, how do you justify not criminally prosecuting women who have abortions?
Anyone who has studied the American legal system has probably had the unfortunate realization that our system is more concerned with consistency than with justice. If we create law which says that fetal life is the equivalent of human life, it would be mighty difficult to reason our way out of not prosecuting women who have abortions.
And women will continue to have abortions, no matter what the physical and criminal risk, just as they do in El Salvador.
The face of back-ally abortions has certainly shifted from the pre-Roe days, with advances in medical technology. If abortion were legalized today, chances are that fewer women would die from illegal abortions, if only because they have better access to medical care. But, as this article makes clear, there would still be a great distinction between what rich women have access to, and what poor women do.
“Back-alley abortion” is a term that has long been part of the abortion debate. In the United States, in the years since Roe v. Wade, it has come to seem metaphorical, perhaps even hyperbolic, but it happens to conjure precisely D.C.’s experience. And it’s easy in El Salvador to find plenty of evidence that D.C.’s story is neither isolated nor the worst case. A report by the Center for Reproductive Rights offers this grim list of tools used in clandestine abortions: “clothes hangers, iron bars, high doses of contraceptives, fertilizers, gastritis remedies, soapy water and caustic agents (such as car battery acid).” That list is meant to disgust a reader in the same way that imagery of mangled fetuses is meant to when employed by those who oppose abortion. But the criminalization of abortion in the modern age, in El Salvador at least, is not so simple as a grim return to the back alley. For the most part, the new law has not resulted in a spike in horror stories of painful and botched clandestine procedures.
To begin with, when a woman might face jail time for an abortion, she’s less likely to discuss her pregnancy at all. According to a study on attempted suicide and teen pregnancy published last year by academics at the University of El Salvador, some girls who poison their wombs with agricultural pesticide (its efficacy being a Salvadoran urban legend) would rather report the cause of their resulting hospital visit as “attempted suicide,” which is not as felonious a crime nor as socially unbearable as abortion. “They don’t want to be interviewed about abortion,” Irma Elizabeth Asencio, one of the study’s authors, explained to me. “They know they have committed a crime.”
Abortion as it exists in El Salvador today tends to operate on three levels. The well-off retain the “right to choose” that comes of simply having money. They can fly to Miami for an abortion, or visit the private office of a discreet and well-compensated doctor. Among the very poor, you can still find the back-alley world described by D.C. and the others who turn up in hospitals with damaged or lacerated wombs. Then there are the women in the middle; they often rely on home-brewed cures that are shared on the Internet or on a new underground railroad that has formed to aid them.
Many women in El Salvador use misoprostol, and ulcer drug, to induce abortions. It’s relatively inexpensive and non-invasive. It means that fewer women die from abortion-related injuries, but they still suffer from the criminal stigma of their choice. And if something does go wrong, you can bet that the hospital’s first priority is not helping the woman.
“When we get a call from a hospital reporting an abortion,” said Flor Evelyn Tópez, “the first thing we do is make sure the girl gets into custody. So if there is not a police officer there, we call the police and begin to collect evidence.”
When the woman is first detained, the form of custody can vary. Wandee Mira, an obstetrician at a hospital in San Salvador, told me that she had seen “a young girl handcuffed to her hospital bed with a police officer standing outside the door.” In El Salvador, a person accused of a major crime is typically held in jail in “preventative detention” until the trial begins. Tópez, who said she had prosecuted perhaps 10 or 15 abortion cases in the last eight years, said that she took the severity of the case into account and sometimes argued for “substitutive measures instead of jail,” like house arrest, while the accused was awaiting trial.
She, quite literally, is a crime scene.
Another common theme between the anti-choicers in El Salvador and those here is their treatment of women as lacking moral culpability and individual decision-making.
“I believe the woman is a victim,” de Cardenal told me. “The criminals are the people who perform the abortions.” When pressed about the fact that the law she helped pass does treat the woman as a criminal, she said: “Yes, it’s part of the law of our country. Because the woman has murdered her baby — and that’s why she is sent to jail. But I believe that the woman who is sent to jail remains a victim of the abortion doctor, the abortionist, who knows exactly what he is doing.”
Women who have abortions know exactly what they’re doing, too. Women are rational actors. We make choices. And while I definitely don’t like the idea of sending women to jail for having abortions, the anti-choice view that we should prosecute doctors and not women, because women don’t know what they’re doing, is incredibly insulting. Notice how the doctor is a “he,” as well. He knows what he’s doing. She doesn’t.
During the first round of investigations, police officers interview the woman’s family and friends. “The collecting of evidence usually takes place where the events transpired — by visiting the home or by speaking with the doctor at the hospital,” Tópez said. In some cases, the police also interrogate people who work with the woman. Tópez added that that didn’t happen very often because, she said, “these are women who don’t work outside the home.” (Indeed, the evidence suggests that the ban in El Salvador disproportionately affects poor women. The researchers who conducted the Journal of Public Health study found that common occupations listed for women charged with abortion-related crimes were homemaker, student, housekeeper and market vendor. The earlier study by the Center for Reproductive Rights found that the majority were domestic servants, followed by factory workers, ticket takers on buses, housewives, saleswomen and messengers.)
No surprise there.
As they do in any investigation, the police collect evidence by interviewing everyone who knows the accused and by seizing her medical records. But they must also visit the scene of the crime, which, following the logic of the law, often means the woman’s vagina.
“Yes, we sometimes call doctors from the Forensic Institute to do a pelvic exam,” Tópez said, referring to the nation’s main forensic lab, “and we ask them to document lacerations or any evidence such as cuts or a perforated uterus.” In other words, if the suspicions of the patient’s doctor are not conclusive enough, then in that initial 72-hour period, a forensic doctor can legally conduct a separate search of the crime scene. Tópez said, however, that vaginal searches can take place only with “a judge’s permission.” Tópez frequently turned the pages of a thick law book she kept at hand. “The prosecutor can order a medical exam on a woman, because that’s within the prosecutor’s authority,” she said.
In the event that the woman’s illegal abortion went badly and the doctors have to perform a hysterectomy, then the uterus is sent to the Forensic Institute, where the government’s doctors analyze it and retain custody of her uterus as evidence against her.
I know there are people out there who think that pro-choice rhetoric about “owning your own uterus” is over-blown. I say, consider this situation. When your reproductive rights are taken away, your uterus quite literally ceases to be yours — to the point where it can be taken into government custody and used as evidence in a criminal case against you.
Vargas offered me an example. “Last year, in March, we received a 15-year-old who came referred from a hospital in an outer area,” she said. “She had a confused patient history. She had already been operated on and had a hysterectomy and had her ovaries taken out. She was in a delicate state, on respiratory assistance in intensive care. The doctors there said they had seen a perforation in the space beneath the cervix.
“This was around Eastertime last year, and the prosecutor’s offices were closed,” Vargas said. She had not seen any of the evidence herself, she said, but saw that the other doctors “had tried to call the prosecutor’s office, but it was closed. I came in, and on the chart what was pending was to call the police. So I called them.”
Vargas remembered that the police interviewed her but asked only general questions. “The hard part was when I was called as a witness,” she said. “That lasted a whole day. That was really ugly, and it was first time I ever testified. They asked me if I had noticed anything suspicious or if I had heard anything about the girl.”
Vargas told the prosecutor that the girl’s stepfather “asked me not to call the prosecutor’s office because it would be better for the girl if I didn’t call.” She fixed me with a look. “I didn’t think it was for the girl that he was asking me not to call.” Vargas said her hunch was that the man was abusing his stepdaughter, and she said that she felt that she was doing the 15-year-old a favor by turning her in for felony abortion.
“It’s a hard question as to whether I did the right thing,” she said. “I think part of it is not right, from the point of view that you can expose the life of the patient, and because it can cause women not to seek care. But at the same time, I felt I did the right thing. I suspect she was abused in her own house. I felt like it was helping her get away from a possible bad situation.”
A better situation would allow her to report the child abuse while not criminalizing the victim. But that’s not what happens when you make abortion a felony.
These policies which privilege the fetus and embryo over the life of the pregnant woman have farther-reaching consequences than just abortion.
A policy that criminalizes all abortions has a flip side. It appears to mandate that the full force of the medical team must tend toward saving the fetus under any circumstances. This notion can lead to some dangerous practices. Consider an ectopic pregnancy, a condition that occurs when a microscopic fertilized egg moves down the fallopian tube — which is no bigger around than a pencil — and gets stuck there (or sometimes in the abdomen). Unattended, the stuck fetus grows until the organ containing it ruptures. A simple operation can remove the fetus before the organ bursts. After a rupture, though, the situation can turn into a medical emergency.
According to Sara Valdés, the director of the Hospital de Maternidad, women coming to her hospital with ectopic pregnancies cannot be operated on until fetal death or a rupture of the fallopian tube. “That is our policy,” Valdés told me. She was plainly in torment about the subject. “That is the law,” she said. “The D.A.’s office told us that this was the law.” Valdés estimated that her hospital treated more than a hundred ectopic pregnancies each year. She described the hospital’s practice. “Once we determine that they have an ectopic pregnancy, we make sure they stay in the hospital,” she said. The women are sent to the dispensary, where they receive a daily ultrasound to check the fetus. “If it’s dead, we can operate,” she said. “Before that, we can’t.” If there is a persistent fetal heartbeat, then they have to wait for the fallopian tube to rupture. If they are able to persuade the patient to stay, though, doctors can operate the minute any signs of early rupturing are detected. Even a few drops of blood seeping from a fallopian tube will “irritate the abdominal wall and cause pain,” Valdés explained. By operating at the earliest signs of a potential rupture, she said, her doctors are able to minimize the risk to the woman.
Ectopic pregnancies are doomed. There is no way that those pregnancies will ever make it down to the uterus. They will never develop into babies. And yet these women are still required to wait until their fallopian tubes rupture before they can be treated. Because that’s what “respect for life” apparently looks like.
(Does anyone else just feel like either crying or throwing something right about now?)
In prosecutors’ offices in El Salvador, as in prosecutors’ offices anywhere, longer sentences are considered better sentences. “The more years one can send someone away for,” I was told by Margarita Sanabria, a magistrate who has handled several abortion cases, “the better it is for the prosecutors.” She cited this motivation to account for what she has observed recently: more later-term abortions being reclassified as “aggravated homicide.” If an aborted fetus is found to have been viable, the higher charge can be filed. The penalty for abortion can be as low as two years in prison. Aggravated homicide has a minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum of 50 years.
The issue of proving viability after an abortion is a tricky one, of course. There is no legal standard. But many of the people I talked to in El Salvador, including Tópez, the prosecutor, said there was a rule of thumb: if an aborted fetus weighs more than 500 grams, or a little more than a pound, then you can argue that the fetus was viable. When I mentioned this to Judge Sanabria, she said she wished she had known more about the rule before. She recalled one case, that of a 20-year-old mother named Carmen Climaco, whose abortion of a fetus estimated at 18 weeks had been recast by the prosecutor as aggravated homicide. The judge admitted that if she had known this rule of thumb, she might not have sent the case to trial. “I feel bad about it,” she said.
Gotta love the logic of the law.
The women’s prison where convicted murderers are sent is in the outer district of Tonacatepeque. I visited it in January. It’s an old, creaky facility that inspires the kind of dread that comes of seeing concertina wire and much-painted cinder blocks, made all the creepier by a paint choice of baby-boy blue. Inside the first gate is a neutral area. It’s filled with almond trees that provide a flickering shade on a hot winter afternoon. All the women are kept in a deeper jail, walled off inside. Through a small window, I could see an open area crisscrossed by laundry lines and arrayed by different women lying around smoking.
I was there to see Carmen Climaco. She is now 26 years old, four years into her 30-year sentence. She has three children, who today are 11, 8 and 6 years old. We talked about them for a while. Since she was the only person in the family who worked, her children’s financial situation is precarious; they now stay with their grandmother. Climaco said she lives for their visits, which are brief and come only twice a month.
She’ll be in jail until she’s in her 50s, all for doing something that tens of millions of other women have. She responds not by claiming her rights to her own body, but by saying she’s completely innocent, and denying having an abortion at all.
I spent the better part of an hour watching Carmen Climaco’s face, listening to her whimpering pleas to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and tiny prayers to me to believe in her innocence. Like anyone serving time in prison, she has inhabited the details of her story to the point that they no longer sound true or false. She has compressed her story into a dense, simple tale of innocence — she just woke up covered in blood — to hold up against the public accusation of baby-strangling. I kept looking at her face, incapable of seeing the innocent girl she described or the murderer the prosecutor sent to prison. The truth was certainly — well, not in the “middle” so much as somewhere else entirely. Somewhere like this: She’d had a clandestine abortion at 18 weeks, not all that different from D.C.’s, something defined as absolutely legal in the United States. It’s just that she’d had an abortion in El Salvador.
D.C. is another woman he interviewed. Her story is below:
When we got to the woman’s house, there was so much disorder. It was all a mess. We talked, and she felt my stomach and said: “Yeah, I can do it. Come back in four days.” I asked how she would do it, and she said, With a probe.
On that day, I came in and was told to lie down. It was not even a bed. There was just so much disorder. She asked me to take off my clothes, and she put a shirt on me. She came with a piece of cloth and put it underneath my nose, and I felt a little numb. She came back with a long wire, like a TV antenna. It was not like a doctor’s instrument. It was just a wire tube with another wire inside it. She put some oil on it and told me to breathe deeply.
She put it in. And she was scraping around. I was supposed to be asleep. But I felt pain. I told her it hurt. She said, “Yeah, we’re almost done.” But she kept scraping around, and I said: “No, no, stop. It’s hurting me.” Then she said, “It’s done.”
She said I would have a fever and I should not go to the doctor or they would report me. That night everything was O.K. So I went to sleep.
At 2 a.m., I started to shake. I had a fever and convulsions. My mama came, and I told her I was cold. She put more clothes on me. The next day I was fine and went to work. I started to feel bad pain but kept working. That night another fever came, and shaking. Mama said she was taking me to the doctor, and I said no. That night I began to convulse again and the pain was stronger. I didn’t go to work the next day. I went to the bathroom and bled heavily.
Two days later, on Friday, even my hands and feet were hurting. My kid was sick, he had a cold. I took my son to the doctor, who asked if it was me who was there to see him. I said it was my child, and he said, “You’re yellow, like hepatitis.” Then I was crying because he touched me on the stomach and liver and it hurt a lot. He asked me if I was sure I was O.K. because I looked bad. When I left the clinic, I couldn’t walk. My sister went to look for a cab.
Several days later, I was back at the doctor. They did some tests and called an ambulance. At the hospital they asked me what I had. I didn’t want to say. I said I felt bad. They did tests on my urine, blood and lungs and found I had a severe respiratory infection. They did an ultrasound and found my kidneys, lung and liver were infected. And the ultrasound showed something else. They asked me: “Why do you have a perforated uterus? What have you done?” Then they did a vaginal exam, and it was the most painful thing for me in the world. They put something in me, and I cried out. They had two doctors holding me down. They said they knew I had had an abortion because my uterus was perforated and big and they would have to operate immediately. All I remember was going to the operating room, and then I don’t remember anything because for the next six days I was in a coma.
After I came out of the coma, they moved me to the maternity hospital. My brother visited and asked me if the police had come to ask me questions. He said the police had come to our house and they had interrogated our relatives and neighbors. They had gone to where I worked. They asked everyone a lot of questions about me and who I was and if they knew whether I was pregnant and whether I’d had an abortion.
When I got home, the prosecutor came to see me, and he asked lots of aggressive questions. He talked to me like I was a criminal. I didn’t want to answer because I was scared. He said if I didn’t answer, even though I was in bad physical shape, he would put me in jail. He wanted me to tell him who the father of the child was and the name of the person who had done this to me. I didn’t know her name. Then he made a date for me to come to the prosecutor’s office.
At the prosecutor’s office, I met a woman. She said if I talked, I might have a chance to stay free. She said there was no worse punishment than that I couldn’t have any more children. So why not talk? Why defend this person? So she gave me another date to come back and talk. I told my mama, but she said that if I told them who the woman was, the woman could take revenge on my family. I didn’t know what to do. But I decided to stay free and so I told her everything.
I went back to work, and everybody knew what I had done because the police had come. I was scared because I didn’t know what they would say about me. A lot of people wouldn’t talk to me, but some people said: “Here’s my little girl! My little girl has come back!” I felt good. They loved me and they said, “It was a mistake, and everybody makes mistakes.”
Later the prosecutor called again and told me I would need to go to court and hear from the judge whether I would be free or go to jail.
A month later, I got my exact court date. I spent the day crying and crying. I took the bus from work to the court. I didn’t tell my mom where I was going because she would want to come. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I just told one friend, and she was waiting for me. I got there, and the judge began the proceeding, and he said I would go free, that what they were going to do was look for the person who had done this to me and that I had no reason to go to jail. I was so happy, so very happy.
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