Pro-Justice

By Janet Kimani

In San Juan Del Riò (México), Dafne McPherson, 29, was released on January 25th, 2019. This was after serving only three years out of her sixteen-year sentence. That’s great, right? Wrong.

Dafne McPherson was sentenced for going through something that women all over the world experience, unfortunately, every single day. A devastating process of pain, physical and emotional, and acute loss. Dafne McPherson was being prosecuted, shamed and punished, for having a miscarriage.

The unfortunate incident occurred at the department store at which she worked where, after suddenly experiencing immense pain, she went into labour and shortly after, had a miscarriage in the bathroom stall. However, not all saw this in the same light. According to the prosecutors, she had murdered her newborn child, an act “not even a dog would do.” The miscarriage was reported under self-induced childbirth, murder (BBC 2019).

Ms. McPherson’ (center) and her relatives celebrating her safe release after the three-year prison period. Credits: Tenemos Noticias

In addition, after evidence was produced that she had, in fact, no control over the situation she suffered, she was released, with no compensation for the trauma, pain and injustice she had suffered. Above all, the three years stolen from her seven-year-old daughter, Lia, whose mother was suddenly removed from her life, will never be recovered. 

Unfortunately, this is not the only story of its kind.

Latin America has seen an uprise of women persecuted for having miscarriages in the name of self-induced delivery with an aim of abortion. In 2014, in Argentina, a woman under the pseudonym Belen was also accused of murder after suffering a miscarriage. In 2016 after spending two years in prison, she was sentenced to eight years for aggravated murder i.e. murder of a relative (independent, 2016).  Similar incidences are on the rise not only in Latin America, but all over the world in countries with brass bound abortion laws, and even in seemingly liberal countries such as the USA. This has led to women who suffer miscarriages being put behind bars, all in the name of upholding the law. There are clear injustices being perpetrated, and little to no reparations to the victims. Unfortunately, there is a slim chance of things improving, given that some countries remain unwilling to either properly invest in a proper investigative process before putting women behind bars, or to simply revise the application of existing laws. This complacency translates into the cycle of blatant injustice being carried forward until like in the case of Dafne, it is too little, too late.

Pro-life or pro-choice, this is simply a question of being pro-justice!

  • Are these cases more than a gendered issue? i.e. how much do other factors such as weaknesses of judicial systemsplay into the issue?
  • Does the solution lie in putting more into investigations, or in doing away with these laws altogether?
  • How do such cases tie in and/or contribute to the rampant cases of femicides in some Latin American countries such as Mexico?

Suggested Further Reading

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/09/world/americas/el-salvador-abortion.html

https://reproductiverights.org/press-room/salvadoran-woman-wrongfully-imprisoned-after-miscarriage-granted-asylum

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