A team of Withers lawyers from our Public International Law Group has assisted the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) in obtaining remarkable recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to decriminalise abortion in El Salvador. Withers represented the CRR on a pro bono basis.
In El Salvador sexual violence against adolescent girls is a recognised problem, and one in every three of El Salvador's pregnant women is an adolescent girl. El Salvador, however, is one of the few jurisdictions in the world in which abortion is criminalised under any circumstances, even in case of rape. The Criminal Code also criminalises health professionals performing abortions. Adolescent girls who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirths and seek medical attention may be reported to the authorities and prosecuted for homicide, facing imprisonment of up to 50 years. Adolescent girls are forced to seek unsafe abortions or continue the pregnancy with the risk of having health complications.
In 2018, the CRR conducted a review of El Salvador's compliance with its international human rights obligations under the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Withers assisted the CRR in preparing written submissions filed with the CRC highlighting El Salvador's breaches of its international human rights obligations under the Convention, including the violation of adolescent girls' right to life, health, education and the best interest of the child.
On 11 October 2018, the CRC issued its Concluding Observations agreeing with Withers and the CRRs' written submissions. The CRC noted its deep concern about the extremely high rate of teenage pregnancies in El Salvador, and requested El Salvador to "[d]ecriminalise abortion and ensure access to safe abortion and post-abortion care services for adolescent girls, making sure that their views are always heard and given due consideration as a part of the decision-making process…"
"This is a significant outcome," comments Hussein "because the Committee on the Rights recommended El Salvador to repeal the abortion ban and ensure access to safe abortion for adolescent girls. The Committee recommendations are a testimony of the team's hard work and commitment to human rights and international law matters also for our pro bono clients." Legal 500 has ranked Withers as a leading firm for public international law.