Prosecutors ask for 40 years in a controversial abortion trial in El Salvador

Hernandez (C) appears at a court in San Salvador on July 15.

(CNN)The controversial retrial of a rape victim in El Salvador concluded Friday, a case that has drawn international attention because of the country's strict abortion laws and could see the young woman's sentence lengthened.

Evelyn Hernandez was a teenager when she was first accused of inducing an abortion and later convicted of aggravated murder, claims which she has repeatedly rejected.
In April 2016, Hernandez was found on the floor of her bathroom drenched in blood. She was rushed to a local emergency room in her hometown of El Carmen, roughly 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) east of the capital, by her mother and a neighbor.
Doctors who examined her saw signs of a delivery, but no baby. They reported her to the authorities, her defense team told CNN. When local officials arrived at her home five hours later, they found the newborn dead in a septic tank.
    A year later, Hernandez was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing the child. Prosecutors at the time claimed she had induced an abortion and left the baby for dead.
    At the end of her retrial Friday in Ciudad Delgado, prosecutors asked the court to impose an even longer sentence -- 40 years in prison, rather than her previous sentence of 30 years. A verdict is expected to be delivered on Monday at 1 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET).
    Hernandez, now 21, has pleaded not guilty. She has said that she did not even know she was pregnant until the delivery. "Had I known I was pregnant, I would have awaited the baby with pride and joy," Hernandez told reporters last month.
    Her attorney Bertha Deléon also told reporters Friday that Hernandez was not physically able to react after going into labor.
    "Forensic scientists deduced after she arrived at the hospital that she had suffered a hypovolemic shock, which is a severe loss of blood and liquids while giving birth. This resulted in a loss of blood pressure which kept her from reacting in a different way," Deléon told reporters.
    Both Hernandez and her defense team have said that her pregnancy was the result of a rape.

    Abortion illegal under any circumstance

    Abortion is illegal in El Salvador under any circumstance, including when the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother or in cases of rape. Depending on the charge, Salvadoran women who are suspected of having an abortion or an induced miscarriage can face serious charges including aggravated homicide, with sentences ranging from two years in prison to up to 50 years, according to Amnesty International.
    Hernandez's is the first abortion case to be tried since Nayib Bukele became president in June. During a campaign event last October at a local university in San Salvador, Bukele said he was anti-abortion but that he didn't agree with convicting poor women who suffer miscarriages.
    "If a poor woman suffers a miscarriage, she's immediately suspected of having had an abortion," Bukele said. "That's where the issue of social inequality comes into play." He has not made any statements regarding Hernandez's case.
    Most of the women who have faced criminal charges for abortions in El Salvador come from poor rural backgrounds, and many suffered miscarriages or had obstetric complications because they weren't able to get regular check-ups due to lack of resources, says Herrera, the pro-choice activist.
    She and her organization have been at the forefront of pushing for reform to the country's abortion bill. "We want Evelyn to go free," Herrera told CNN. "But we know the realities of what the prosecution is asking for and know that, if convicted, she could face 30-50 years in prison."
    In 2017, the UN rights office urged El Salvador to change its "draconian" abortion laws, saying abortion should not be a crime when the pregnancy puts the mother at risk or in cases of rape or human trafficking.

    Defense team feeling "positive"

    Hernandez's defense team told CNN that they were feeling "positive" earlier this week, ahead of the trial's start.
    Elizabeth Deras, one of Hernandez's lawyers, said some of the witnesses who testified last month presented evidence that suggested that the baby died from complications during the delivery, implying that it was not the fault of Hernandez.
    "We're feeling positive as her defense team because some of the prosecution's witnesses revealed details that are important for our case," Deras told CNN. "The doctor who performed the autopsy on the child said the cause of death was aspiration pneumonia and that meconium was discovered inside the baby's stomach."
      Hernandez has already served 33 months of her initial 30-year sentence. She was freed last February after her team presented an appeal before the Supreme Court and requested her retrial.
      Herrera said she and others supporting Hernandez's case will gather outside the courthouse with protest signs demanding her freedom.