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New Video Shows State Legislators Witnessing the Consequences of an Abortion Ban

On the heels of a record-breaking year for abortion bans, state legislators met women who have been imprisoned as a result of El Salvador’s total abortion ban

San Salvador, El Salvador — The State Innovation Exchange (SiX), a national resource and strategy center that collaborates with state legislators to improve people’s lives through transformative public policy, is proud to release a 3-minute video on what a delegation of five U.S. state legislators learned when they traveled to El Salvador about the consequences of banning abortion.

The video offers highlights of the increasingly extreme abortion restrictions state legislators face in the United States and state legislators reflecting on their experiences in El Salvador with people on the frontlines of decriminalizing abortion in El Salvador, with people promoting sex education, with doctors and nurses who serve women with complicated pregnancy issues, and with 13 women serving prison time for their tragic pregnancy outcomes.  

Statement from Kelly Baden, Vice President of Reproductive Rights at SiX:

“There is a transparent and systematic attempt to ban abortion in the U.S., and the Supreme Court will soon hear yet another case about how far states can go in restricting abortion care. Really understanding what it means to ban abortion is critical for Americans. These state legislators traveled from their homes and their families to come bear witness to the devastating impact of abortion bans on women, families, and communities, sending a powerful message back to their states that our human rights are not up for debate.”

El Salvador has criminalized abortion since 1998 and, as a result, more than 140 women who have experienced obstetric emergencies have been prosecuted, including at least 36 women who have been sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.

Participating state legislators from SiX’s Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council included: Alabama State Representative Merika ColemanOhio State Representative Stephanie HowseFlorida State Representative Cindy PoloArizona State Representative Raquel Teránand Georgia State Senator Nikema Williams.

Statement from Georgia state senator Nikema Williams:

“All of the unintended consequences we talk about as possibilities when abortion bans pass were made very real during my time in El Salvador. Unintended consequences now have a name, a face, a family, and a story. As I continue to fight against abortion bans, I’ll carry with me the moment of holding Sarita’s hand in prison as we cried together and prayed together that she would be released and no other woman, anywhere, would ever be sentenced to prison after seeking access to abortion, let alone the loss of a pregnancy.”

The fact-finding trip provided a rare opportunity to compare and contrast societal challenges that stem from abortion bans in El Salvador and the United States, and what might happen in the U.S. if abortion bans are allowed to go into effect. The trend of introducing abortion bans in U.S. state legislatures has gained steam this past year. In 2019, Alabama banned abortion entirely, while Georgia and Ohio passed bans on abortion starting at six weeks in pregnancy—before most women even know they are pregnant (none of these laws are currently in effect while litigation continues). Florida filed a similar bill in October, and Arizona is a longtime home to abortion restrictions. While OH Rep. Stephanie Howse was in El Salvador, two Ohio legislators introduced a bill banning abortion under all circumstances.