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Court frees Salvador women convicted for abortions

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Ilopango (El Salvador) (AFP)

Three women serving 30-year sentences for falling foul of El Salvador's severe anti-abortion laws walked free from prison Thursday after the Central American country's Supreme Court ordered their release.

Alba Lorena Rodriguez, Maria del Transito Orellana and Cinthia Marcela Rodriguez emerged from the prison at Llopango outside San Salvador to loud cheers from wellwishers and rights' groups.

Each had been convicted of aggravated homicide after losing their babies by miscarriage.

"I am happy, happy to recover my freedom, happy for everything that I've been waiting for for a long time," Cinthia Rodriguez told reporters as she embraced relatives outside the prison walls.

Earlier, El Salvador's deputy justice and security minister Raul Lopez handed the women a letter notifying them their sentences had been commuted by the court on the eve of International Women's Day.

Abortion carries jail sentences of between two and eight years, though even women who abort due to birth defects or health complications risk jail sentences of up to 40 years if convicted of aggravated homicide.

Campaigners say some have been jailed after suffering miscarriages.

ACDATEE's president, Morena Herrera, said that 33 women serving time under El Salvador's draconian anti-abortion laws had had their sentences commuted since 2009.

Around 20 women remain imprisoned, serving long sentences.

"We will continue in the fight until we have no women in prison for an unjust law which violates their rights," Herrera said.

The Supreme Court said in its ruling that the sentences handed down to the women were "disproportionate and immoral," the abortion rights organization ACDATEE said.

The women "lived in inadequate, social economic and family conditions," and their families had been affected by their incarceration, "since the economic contribution of women to their families is fundamental," the court said.

Alba Rodriguez, 30, was pregnant from a rape and lost her baby five months into her term in December 2009. The mother of two other children, she was arrested by police at the hospital she subsequently went to for post-natal treatment and charged with aggravated homicide, according to the Center for Reproductive rights.

Six months later she was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. She served nine years and two months of her sentence.

Maria Orellana miscarried in 2010 while working as a domestic. She was arrested after being taken to hospital in San Salvador. Later she too was sentenced to 30 years; she served nine years and three days until she walked free on Thursday.

Cinthia Rodriguez worked as a cleaner in a clothing factory when she miscarried without seeking medical assistance. She was convicted under the abortion laws and sentenced to 30 years in 2009.

She walked out of prison Thursday having served 11 years, one month and three days of her sentence.

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