The case was already horrible enough: An 11-year-old Argentine girl was raped and impregnated by her grandmother’s boyfriend. But after a protracted legal battle to win the right for an abortion, doctors shocked “Lucia” by delivering a baby via cesarean section at 23 weeks.
Doctors say the baby has little chance of surviving, according to media reports.
The uproar by anti-abortion forces in this predominantly Catholic country reignited a debate only six months after the Argentine Senate narrowly rejected a bill to legalize abortion.
The ordeal began on Jan. 29, at week 19 of gestation, when the girl, identified only as “Lucia,” went to a primary care center in Buyuirracu, in the northwest of Tucuman province, to complain of a “gut pain” that was diagnosed as a pregnancy.
“I want you to take out of my tummy what the old man put there,” the girl was quoting as saying in a complaint lodged with authorities in the northern province of Tucuman, the Guardian reports.
After suffering self-inflicted lesions resulting from apparent suicide attempts, Lucia was placed in state care, according to the newspaper.
However, her request for an abortion was delayed by almost five weeks, as some doctors refused to carry out the procedure and a legal row erupted over whether her mother or her grandmother had the legal right to speak on her behalf.
Mariana Paterlini of human rights organization Andhes, which filed a brief in Lucia’s case, told The Daily Beast that Lucia had sought permission for an abortion eight times, including at the trial for her abuser, who is currently awaiting sentencing.
Abortion in Argentina, which is nominally 70 percent Catholic and the home of Pope Francis, is illegal, except in cases of rape or if the mother’s health is in danger. But Lucia’s fight ran into delays, including a battle over whether her mother or grandmother was the legal guardian. At one point, the grandmother was stripped of her guardianship for cohabiting with the rapist.
A major holdup, however, was the refusal of some doctors, calling themselves conscientious objectors, to perform the procedure.
By the time the issues had been settled, the girl was in the 23rd week of her pregnancy.
After the provincial Family Court ruled that the abortion was permissible, the agonizing ordeal got even more complicated. Two rivate doctors, Cecilia Outsset, a gynecologist and her husband, Jose Gigena, volunteered to perform the operation.
But they were assigned three hospital staff members – an anesthetist, a surgical technician, and nurse – who declared themselves as conscientious objectors and would not participate, according to Clarin, Argentina’s largest newspaper.
Outsset told Infobae: “We were left alone, but we could not leave her, we could not say ‘not now.'”
“I had to inform my husband and call an anesthetist from another hospital,” she said.
After her transfer to Eva Peron hospital, lawyers of the Argentine Northwest in Human Rights and Social Studies (Andhes), and the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Human Rights (CLADEM) had presented a legal brief last week supporting her request for an abortion, but were not allowed to make contact with Lucia.
In the end, an aunt was reached by Facebook who intervened to permit the girl and her mother to declare in writing the desire to terminate the pregnancy.
Meanwhile, women told Clarin that anti-abortion activists, purportedly posing as doctors, had entered the hospital to try to convince Lucia and her mother to continue with the pregnancy.
Outsset, who counts herself a conscientious objector, but also supports the right of other groups to seek legalization, said the decision to perform a C-section was determined to be the safer option.
Eventually, with Lucia sedated, doctors carried out a C-section instead of an abortion, arguing it would have been too risky to perform the latter, the BBC reported.
“Vaginally, it wasn’t possible,” she said, according to Clarin. “Her body wasn’t sufficiently developed for a 23-week pregnancy, and even if it had been, she wasn’t psychologically ready given the many abuses she’d suffered.”
Outsset tells Radio Nacional Tucumán that when she and her husband first saw Lucia in the hospital room, she was playing with dolls and weighed barely 110 pounds.
“When I saw her my legs trembled, it was like seeing my youngest daughter,” she said. “The little girl did not fully understand what was going to happen.”
In the end, Family Court Judge Valeria Brand ruled in favor of the abortion. The Ministry of Health in Tucuman then ordered the medical intervention, but with a message: “save the two lives.”
But as the anger rose among pro-abortion groups, the press office of the Supreme Court of Tucumán issued a statement declaring that at no time did Judge Brand include a “save the two lives” call in her ruling, Pagina/12 reports.
The case has inflamed activists on both sides of the issue.
Last year, the bill to legalize abortion up to 14 weeks was passed by the Argentinian chamber of deputies but failed in senate, under strong pressure from the church.
“The State is responsible for torturing Lucia,” said #NiUnaMenos, which means ‘not one less,’ one of the feminist organizations leading the campaign to legalize abortion.
Lawyer Soledad Deza, of Catholics for the Right to Decide, said Lucía’s case was not one of conscientious objection by doctors, AFP reports.
“Regrettably, what we have here is a conservative action stemming from the executive branch,” Deza told Página/12. “Abortion is a legal option in the case of abuse or risk to life. The state has to ensure the procedure. Here there was the worst kind of cruelty with this child.”
“That defenseless and innocent human being is whom abortionists managed to pull from its mother’s womb in Tucumán, 24 weeks and premature. Now it lies with tubes attached and in risk of dying when 20 more days could have been allowed to pass to guarantee both lives …,” tweeted Mariano Obarrio, a journalist for La Nación.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/03/01/argentina-rape-victim-forced-give-birth-after-wanting-abortion/3018459002/