The difficulties of being pregnant in El Salvador
Griselda, 23, stands in her little kiosk in Cinquera, El Salvador, with her big belly clearly visible. “I’m 7 months pregnant with my first child. He’s supposed to be born on the 16th of May.” She already has a name – either Samir or Aylan. “I like the exotic sound of it. I think it’s Arabic, isn’t it?” She seems to be very happy about her pregnancy and baby but also slightly worried that something might go wrong.
Together with her boyfriend, she took the decision to have a baby. The two have been dating for a little more than a year. Around a month ago, he decided to leave for the United States. An all too common story also in El Salvador, like the rest of Central America. “It was his dream to go there. I don’t want to stand between a person and his dreams,” Griselda tells with a sad look on her face. He said that he wants to earn money to better provide for the baby and her. For 5 years, he wants to stay there. Quite a long and important time in the life of a little human being.
After finishing high school, Griselda started to work at the kiosk. She dreams of studying business administration one day. So why did she decided to have a baby first and not first study? “There was no money for me to study in San Salvador. I had to start working.” Now that her boyfriend is in the US, she hopes that with the extra money he makes, she can study in a couple of years.
“When I work, the baby sleeps because I walk around. But when I lie down at night, he wakes up and starts kicking. Sometimes it really hurts and I can’t sleep. That’s when my boyfriend sends me voice messages via WhatsApp. When I let the baby listen to it, he notably calms down.”
Griselda lives in a little town called Cinquera around 2 hours driving from the capital San Salvador. Since her boyfriend isn’t around, her mother-in-law is going with her to all the check-ups at the hospital about one hour from Cinquera. She has a good relationship to both her boyfriend’s and her own family. “For the birth of my son, I need to go to hospital too. My mum gave birth to me just here in Cinquera at home with the help of a midwife but that is forbidden now. When your baby dies while you give birth at home they’ll charge you.”
El Salvador has one of the strictest pregnancy and abortion laws in the whole world. The termination of a pregnancy is illegal in all cases – even if the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother’s life or in cases of rape. All abortion related crimes are treated as homicides. Women who suffer miscarriages or still-births are often suspected of having had an abortion. At least 17 women are currently in jail for these charges facing sentences of up to 50 years. The United Nations and human rights groups such as Amnesty International repeatedly criticised the laws as violating women’s human rights.
Griselda, 23 years old, pregnant with her first child and determined to give him a bright future regardless of what is and what comes.