An 11-year-old girl in Argentina has given birth via c-section after being denied an abortion, re-igniting the controversy over that country’s abortion laws, according to The Hill. The girl, who became pregnant after being raped by her grandmother’s 65-year-old partner, requested an abortion – a legal right in cases of rape. But that request was denied in part due to confusion over the country’s laws involving the pregnancy of a girl so young and her legal guardianship. Several doctors also refused to perform the abortion, with some claiming it was too risky to perform the procedure on a girl so young and some objecting on moral grounds.
The procedure was put off for over five weeks with doctors saying it was too dangerous, and eventually, the medical team opted to perform a c-section instead. Although the baby was delivered alive via the c-section, there is little chance of long-term survival.
While abortion in Argentina is legal in cases of rape or if the mother’s life is in danger, the 11-year-old’s case presented legal problems due to uncertainty over who her legal guardian was. As the various parties argued back and forth over who was able to sign off on the girl having the procedure done, the clock continued to tick, making it increasingly more risky to perform the abortion. Local media reported that the girl was adamant from the beginning about her wishes, quoting her as saying she wanted “this thing the old man put inside me taken out.”
So while the girl’s mother agreed with her daughter’s choice to have an abortion, because the girl had been placed in her grandmother’s care previously, the mother’s consent wasn’t considered valid. But then since the grandmother’s guardianship had been stripped due to her cohabitating with the girl’s rapist, her consent wasn’t considered good enough, either.
On top of all this, a number of doctors at a local hospital refused to carry out the procedure, citing personal beliefs. By the time all the legal wrangling was settled and health authorities in the northern Argentine state of Tucumán and a family court ordered doctors at the hospital to perform the “necessary procedures to attempt to save both lives,” the girl was in her 23rd week of pregnancy.
The doctors say they opted for the c-section, not because of the mandate to “attempt to save both lives,” but simply because at that stage of the pregnancy and with the girl’s age, an abortion would have been riskier.
Human rights group Andhes says the girl’s ordeal amounts to state-sponsored “torture.” Coming just six months after the nation was embroiled in a debate about legislation that was ultimately defeated that would have allowing legalized abortion within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, the 11-year-old’s story is sure to reopen wounds around the issue that haven’t yet had time to heal.