Salvadoran media and "moral panic"
El Salvador's draconian abortion laws which admit of no exceptions, and the series of cases where women who miscarried were prosecuted for homicide, have been often discussed on this blog. An opinion piece in the LA Times, titled The real reason El Salvador jails women for stillbirths? It's called 'moral panic,' offers some perspective on this harsh treatment of traumatized women:
According to [South African sociologist Stanley] Cohen’s theory, the media plays a crucial role in whipping up moral panic. In El Salvador, mainstream media outlets went into overdrive to foment the frenzy over abortion, calling on the state to do more to capture homicidal mothers and using the words “abortion” and “homicide” interchangeably. One newspaper article reported that “the number of newborns being thrown into latrines, trash receptacles, or vacant lots by their own mothers is alarming.” Often, such articles did not cite a single case to support their claims, yet offered provocative descriptions of the evil women who carried out the crimes. “They are human beings who only lived the nine months that they were in their mothers’ wombs,” reported one newspaper. “Upon birth, they await the sweet hands of a mother, but what they find instead are the talons of soulless women.”
It is in this larger context that these heavy prison sentences must be understood. In the 20 cases I examined, the Salvadoran authorities routinely and flagrantly disregarded evidence in order to pursue guilty verdicts — grist for the panic mill.Read the rest of the article here.