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Imagine living someplace where having a miscarriage could make you a criminal.

Pregnancy is supposed to be happy, but it's also scary. Sometimes it goes wrong.

Imagine living someplace where having a miscarriage could make you a criminal.

Christina's miscarriage almost killed her.

She left the hospital heartbroken and in handcuffs. A few months later, she was in jail — sentenced for 30 years for "aggravated homicide." They accused her of an illegal abortion.

Tragically, Christina's case is not an isolated incident.

She was very lucky that a lawyer, Dennis Stanley Muñoz Rosa, happened upon her case and got her released after serving four of the 30 years to which she was sentenced. Other women in El Salvador are not that fortunate and are forced to serve sentences as long as 50 years for having their miscarriages classified as abortions.


In El Salvador, and four other countries, women who go to hospitals following a miscarriage are regularly reported to police for "suspected abortion."

Hundreds of women have been reported to the police since the Central American country passed its ban. Because their bodies are considered the scene of the crime, evidence-gathering procedures are traumatic and invasive. They occur while a woman is still recovering from her miscarriage.

According to the BBC, every case reported from 2000 to 2011 in El Salvador researched by Citizens Group for Decriminalization of Abortion came from public hospitals that serve people who can't afford to get higher quality care from expensive private hospitals. But these hospitals often fail to find compelling evidence that proves the woman intentionally ended her pregnancy.

"Not a single criminal case originated from the private health sector where thousands of abortions are believed to take place annually." — BBC

When Dennis Stanley Muñoz Rosa, the lawyer who took interest in Christina's case, was interviewed by the BBC and cited another case he was working on at the time: A hospital staff member testified that the woman in question "might have" been pregnant 11 whole months before she came to the hospital with severe pain and bleeding.


Activists in the country have hope that in the future, fewer women will be jailed for miscarriages.

Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez, a live-in domestic servant, became pregnant at 18 years old after being raped by her employer. After the home delivery of a stillborn baby she continued to bleed heavily and went to a public hospital. The hospital reported her to the police and she was convicted of aggravated homicide and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Dennis Stanley Muñoz Rosa again was instrumental in highlighting the lack of evidence in her case and getting her released. Because the pardon specifically cited judicial error, local activists believe they can pry open this crack to get more women out of prison.

"The prosecution of these women is based on prejudice not proof and starts from a presumption of guilt; a presumption that because they are poor and uneducated, they killed their babies because they didn't want them and couldn't care for them. The evidence is that there is a dead baby, a woman and the forensic evidence establishes they are mother and child. That's it." — Muñoz Rosa in the Telegraph


El Salvador's high teenage pregnancy rate paired with its low rape reporting rate has some government officials worried.

The head of youth and adolescent development at El Salvador's health ministry has publicly stated that he believes the law and its aggressive enforcement is driving pregnant teenagers to suicide or dangerous "backstreet abortions."

Amnesty International, the United Nations, and several European countries are calling on El Salvador to end this practice.

Amnesty International published a shocking report of how damaging these law have been for Salvadoran women and girls.

One gynecologist, speaking to Amnesty International in early 2014, describedthe treatment received by pregnant girls:

“In the last six months, we had four cases of girls aged between 10 and 14 years old, whosebabies were forming without kidneys. [Such babies] die at birth. It wasn't just that they madethem carry the pregnancy to term, but also that when they explained to them that the babyhad this condition, they said it was the girl's fault for having got pregnant. It's outrageousbecause it's a congenital defect, it has nothing to do with what she's done… but that is whatthe doctors told them when they gave them the news." – Amnesty International report, p. 27

No one should leave a hospital in handcuffs after having a miscarriage. Give these women voice by sharing this post.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

JediMentat 44 / Flickr

Starbucks is the most popular coffee chain in the world and it's also one of the greatest producers of waste. The company uses more than 8,000 coffee cups per minute, which adds up to four billion a year. Over 1.6 million trees are harvested every year to make its disposable cups.

Since the cups are lined with plastic only four cities in the U.S. will accept them for recycling.

Starbucks has attempted to address this issue in the past by making bold proclamations that it will reduce its waste production, but unfortunately, they have yet to yield substantial results.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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