An 11-year-old rape victim gave birth in Argentina Tuesday after she was apparently denied an abortion by authorities, infuriating women's choice advocates in the country who have fought to legalize the procedure.
The girl, referred to as "Lucia" to protect her identity, underwent a Caesarean section Tuesday in the 23rd week of her pregnancy, the Guardian reports. Lucia, whose baby is not expected to survive, had previously begged officials to "remove what the old man put inside me."
That man is the 65-year-old partner of Lucia's grandmother - who took custody of Lucia and her siblings in 2015 after her two older sisters were abused by their mother's partner, the Guardian reported. Lucia attempted to commit suicide twice upon learning of her pregnancy Jan. 23. She was hospitalized and later placed in state care as a result of apparent self-inflicted lesions, the outlet said.
The birth of Lucia's child Tuesday was widely condemned by women's rights activists in the country, who say Lucia and her mother repeatedly asked for her to have an abortion - a request that was delayed by nearly five weeks, according to the BBC. The debate over who the girl's guardian was complicated the planned abortion, further exacerbated by several doctors who refused to carry out the procedure because of their personal beliefs.
As The Washington Post has reported, Argentine law allows abortion in instances of rape, when the mother is mentally disabled or if there is a serious risk to her health. In any other instance, a woman could be imprisoned for up to four years for undergoing the procedure.
In Lucia's case, officials ordered a hospital director to "continue with procedures necessary to attempt to save both lives," - a mantra also used by anti-abortion advocates - citing a decision made by a family judge, according to the BBC. That court has since indicated it gave no instruction to save two lives. Moreover, the Guardian reports a doctor warned in court that Lucia faced "high obstetric risk" if her pregnancy was allowed to continue.
Gustavo Vigliocco, health secretary of the province of Tucuman, even claimed Lucia wanted to birth the child.
"I am close to both the child and her mother. The child wants to continue her pregnancy," Vigliocco said in a radio interview, according to the Guardian. "We are considering the risks but she has a large contexture, she weighs more than 50 kilos."
A doctor who performed the procedure said she managed to save Lucia's life after the girl had been "tortured for a month by the provincial health system."
"For electoral reasons, they [the authorities] prevented the legal interruption of the pregnancy and forced the little girl to give birth," Dr Cecilia Ousset told reporters, according to the Guardian. "My legs trembled when I saw her, it was like seeing my younger daughter. The little girl didn't understand completely what was going to happen."
Women's rights advocates agreed with Ousset's assertion that Juan Manzur, governor of Tucuman, used Lucia to push his political agenda. Journalist and self-described feminist activist Mariana Carbajal wrote in a tweet that Tucuman had treated Lucia "like a receptacle, like an incubator."
Soledad Deza, of the Women for Women Association, reminded news outlets that Lucia's abortion would have been legal, considering health risks and the fact she was sexually abused, the Guardian reports. She likened the girl's experience to "the worst type of cruelty."
In August, after months of debate, the Argentina Senate rejected a bill that would have legalized abortions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. While some Latin American countries have loosened abortion laws to be less restrictive, the majority of countries in the region ban abortions outright or permit them only when the mother's life is at risk, The Washington Post reported.
Those against abortions argue the government should focus its effort on reproductive health and educational services. Citing a government study, The Post has previously reported that 60 percent of pregnancies in Argentina are unplanned.
"I'm mad. I wanted to win," Maria Paz, 22, a member of the socialist feminist group Las Rojas, told The Post after the bill failed August. "But the senators should feel worse. They're turning their back on all of these women who want the right to abort."
The Washington Post