The UN shamed Argentina for forcing a pregnant 11-year-old rape victim to deliver her baby

(AP/Natacha Pisarenko)Women attend a pro-choice rally in favour of decriminalizing abortion outside Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019.
  • Argentina must guarantee that rape victims have access to abortions, a UN department has said.
  • The report references the case of an 11-year-old Argentine girl who was forced to deliver her rapist’s baby.
  • The procedure, which resembled a C-section, was necessary because authorities delayed the abortion until it was too late to terminate the pregnancy by traditional means.
  • Hospital staff rescued the foetus, but it is unlikely to survive.

Argentina must guarantee that rape victims have access to safe abortions, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said on Thursday.

“Restricting or prohibiting access to legal terminations can constitute torture and maltreatment,” said Birgit Gerstenberg, the agency’s South America representative.

The warning comes a week after an 11-year-old girl, who was allegedly sexually abused by her grandmother’s 65-year-old partner, was forced to deliver her rapist’s child, as first reported by Página/12.

Lucía, as she is known to keep her identity anonymous, requested an abortion when she found out she was pregnant at 19 weeks.

“I want them to take out what the old man put inside of me,” she told her psychologist, according to Página/12.

But authorities in the northwestern state of Tucumán kept delaying the procedure on the grounds of “conscientious objection” until it was too risky.

Since the pregnancy was too far along to abort by traditional means, the 11-year-old had a procedure similar to a C-section at 23 weeks. Hospital staff rescued the foetus, but it is reportedly unlikely to survive.

Tucumán’s health authorities deny that Lucía wanted to terminate the pregnancy, a claim her mother denies.

“The girl was unnecessary subject to torture, to torment by letting this pregnancy last 23 weeks,” Dr. Jose Gijena, who performed the C-section on Lucía, told AJ+. He remembered seeing the girl playing with plastic toys before her procedure.

Argentina abortion congress protest(Tomas F. Cuesta/AP)In this Thursday, March 8, 2018 photo, pro-choice protesters support a bill on Tuesday that would legalise elective abortion in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The case reanimated an ongoing debate around the right to terminate pregnancies in the Catholic country. Argentina has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world: Women can only have abortions in cases of rape, or if their health is at risk.

Last year, Argentina’s Congress unsuccessfully tried to pass a bill to decriminalize the procedure, as women can currently face up to four years in prison if they get one illegally.

Read more:

Argentina rejects bill to legalise abortion pushing back against wave of support from a growing women’s rights movement in Pope Francis’ home country

But like Lucía, many girls don’t have access to abortions even when they are entitled to them by law.

In 2017, nearly 2,500 girls under 15 gave birth in Argentina, many of whom were rape victims, The Guardian reported.

“[Lucía] wanted to but could not access the right that’s guaranteed by law because of the state, sexism and the church,” Dr. Gijena told AJ+.

Now feminist organisations have reported Tucumán’s health minister and the health secretary to the justice system alleging that they placed arbitrary bureaucratic obstacles in the way of Lucía’s case.

“The health system, which should find ways to heal the girl . . . recover from sexual abuse, is throwing salt in open wounds,” wroteMariana Carbajal, the journalist who broke the story.

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