In the aftermath of the death of a premature baby gir who was born in a forced cesarean section in the province of Jujuy, Argentina, several women’s, social and human rights organizations are preparing to file a criminal suit against health minister Gustavo Bouhid, governor Gerardo Morales and the medical team of Hector Quintana Hospital for delaying in performing abortion of a 12 years old rape victim. In addition to the suit, the organizations are demanding Bouhid’s resignation and political trial against Morales. Feminist and social activists are planning to march to the courts in Jujuy on February 1 when the judicial activities will resume after the vacation.
Weeks ago, news surfaced of a case of a 12 year old girl from San Pedro city in the province of Jujuy who was raped by her 58 years old neighbor. On January 11, she was admitted to a local hospital in San Pedro, where, on confirmation of the pregnancy, she and her family demanded the implementation of the law of Legal Termination of Pregnancy (ILE) because the pregnancy resulted from rape and continuing it posed a threat to the life of the minor. She was 23 weeks pregnant and still within the timeframe to carry out a legal abortion, but the hospital authorities refused to perform the abortion. She was then transferred to Hector Quintana Hospital in San Salvador city.
According to the article 86, paragraph 2 of the Argentine Penal Code established in the FAL ruling, the abortion is considered legal until the 24th week of gestation in case of a rape and when the life of the pregnant woman is at risk. On January 16, the governor of Jujuy, Gerardo Morales announced that the article 86 would be complied with. He guaranteed that the victim’s right to safe abortion would be respected and authorized the hospital to carry out the abortion.
On January 18, the doctors in charge of the surgical procedure performed a cesarean section on her rather than carrying out the proper abortion procedure and violated the right to legal abortion of the victim. They termed the C-section as “the least risky method to perform legal abortion”. The team of doctors later confessed that when the child arrived at the hospital, legal abortion was a possibility, but they were under the pressure of the conservative anti-abortion right groups that demonstrated daily at the doors of the hospital.
The same day, in an interview with Radio Universidad, a national public radio station, the health minister of Jujuy, Gustavo Bouhid, supported doctors’ decision and pointed out the determination to give the child for adoption once she was out of danger. “She is a baby who was born alive, is in neonatology [unit] and is going to be adopted, she will not get in touch with the mother”, he said.
On January 22, the hospital management informed about the death of the newborn, without specifying the cause of death.
As per reports, the girl had consulted doctors over a pain in stomach when she was 12 weeks pregnant, but the doctors did not detect it.
Women’s organization of Argentina denounced that “opting for the ILE would have avoided the agony of this newborn, in addition to the forced motherhood to which the girl was obligated”. They condemned the decision of the doctors who subjected the minor to an obligatory delivery, without considering the emotional and psychological damages it would cause to her.
They also pointed out the pre-determination of the doctors highlighting that C-section does not appear as a legal method in the “protocol for comprehensive care of people with the right to legal interruption of pregnancy” of the Ministry of Health of the nation. The protocol establishes that the pregnancy should be interrupted by a “medical procedure”, that is, with misoprostol or through an “instrumental procedure”, that is, “uterine dilation and evacuation”.
“It was not ILE, it was a torture”, said the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion of the Northern Province of Argentina.
They are holding Morales and Bouhid responsible for what happened. They said that Morales, Bouhid, and other radical legislators, disseminated the details of the case to exert the necessary pressure so that the cesarean section could be practiced and systematically violated the right of the minor.
The mother of the girl has requested through a formal appeal the removal of the health minister for violating “the privacy, freedom, dignity and comprehensive health” of her daughter.
The movement, National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, is prepared to file a criminal complaint against all those involved for torturing the minor, hindering the ILE, breach of public official’s duty and violating the right to confidentiality of the minor.
The case of the 12 years old once again sparked the debate over Argentina’s legislation on abortion. With a renewed push, different social organizations will soon introduce a new legislation to legalize abortion. In August last year, the Senate rejected the Bill of Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy, which was passed in the House of Representatives, denying hundreds of thousands of people the right to legal, safe and free abortion.