Buenos Aires Times

argentina ABORTION DEBATE

Controversy in Argentina over pregnancy of 10-year-old rape victim

The girl’s situation made national headlines after her mother took her to hospital over stomach pains. When doctors confirmed her 21-week pregnancy, the girl confessed that she had been raped by her stepfather.

Friday 25 May, 2018
Salta Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey.
Salta Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey. Foto:Cedoc/Perfil

A 10-year-old girl in Salta province has expressed her desire to continue with her five-month pregnancy with the support of her family. 

The case sparked controversy in Argentina where a debate continues in Congress over a bill that would decriminalise abortion.

The girl’s situation made national headlines after her mother took her to hospital over stomach pains. When doctors confirmed her 21-week pregnancy, the girl confessed that she had been raped by her stepfather.

“The Youth and Disabilities advisor Patricia Gómez de González advised the Executive branch of the desire of the girl and her mother… to continue the pregnancy”, the Santa provincial government reported. 

There are 2,700 births to “girl mothers” between 10 and 14 years old each year in Argentina, according to UNICEF data, which equates to 3.6 percent of all births in the country.

“The family is horrified. They told the mother that an abortion is very risky. What we don’t know is what the girl thinks. An abortion is still possible”, Mariana Carbajal, founder of the feminist movement NiUnaMenos, told AFP.

Carbajal said that the girl “was hospitalised for the first time in February. She was around 12 weeks (pregnant), but they diagnosed her with constipation. The girl was violated by her step-father and the State is now violating her rights”, she charged.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

Argentina’s Congress has been holding open debates with hundreds of speakers twice weekly for one month. Speakers have been arguing for or against a proposed bill that would decriminalise abortion.

Several mass protests have rallied millions of Argentines for or against the proposal.

The elective interruption of a pregnancy is illegal in Argentina except in cases of rape or when a woman’s life is at risk. 

In the case of the girl from Salta, the State must provide medical assistance for the interruption of her pregnancy because she has been raped. However, given the advanced stage of gestation and the expressed desire of the girl and her mother to keep the pregnancy, an abortion now cannot take place.

A 2012 provincial protocol in Salta determined that a woman could seek an abortion until the 12th week of a gestation and with psychological assistance.

“Generally rapes take place within a family unit. Girls don’t speak out because they are fearful and until around 12 weeks a pregnancy is barely noticeable. The timeframe (set out in the protocol) is unviable, it is a restriction”, Laura Postiglione, the head of the Violence Against Women Observatory, said in an interview with El Tribuno de Salta. 

She also objected to the idea that a victim be “supervised” by a team of psychologists.

ABHORRENT CASE

Salta province has a population of 1.3 million people whose way of life is closely linked to traditional Catholicism.

The amount and variety of churches and parishes in this small territory distinguishes it in Argentina’s popular culture as “the most Catholic” of the provinces.

Catholic religion was obligatorily taught in provincial public schools until a 2017 Supreme Court decision that declared this practice discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The case of 10-year-old pregnant girl gained national attention. The governor of Salta, Juan Manuel Urtubey, a presidential hopeful for 2019, announced on Thursday that the province would study the case.

For now, the “girl and her mother will be informed and listened to”.

“There are no more obstacles for her to abort”, the province’s Gender Politics spokeswoman Rosaura Gareca said.

-AFP

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