11-year-old Argentine rape victim denied right to legal abortion, forced into motherhood

Despite the minor’s desperate plea for an abortion eight times, the conservative provincial government, healthcare professionals and religious groups delayed the process and forced her into motherhood

March 03, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Demonstration on Februray 19
Demonstration outside the National Congress of Argentina on February 19. (Photo: Emergentes)

On February 26, an 11-year-old girl, who was raped by her grandmother’s partner, was forced to give birth in the Tucumán province of Argentina. Both she and her family requested a Legal Termination of Pregnancy (ILE) several times but the Tucumán government and the Eva Perón Hospital authorities delayed the process, so much so that a cesarean section was the only way to save the girl’s life.

“It was decided to perform a micro-section, because vaginally it was impossible for many reasons: she was abused multiple times, with a pregnancy already in the second trimester due to delays to which the government subjected her, 180/120 blood pressure rate and a pre-eclampsia,” explained Dr. Cecilia Ousset, the gynecologist who performed the surgery with her husband, Dr. José Gigena.

Describing the events of the night the girl was forced to give birth, Dr. Ousset said on Radio Nacional Tucumán that all the involved medical personnel, including the anesthetist, declared themselves against the abortion. It is reported that staff members from the Attorney General’s office approached to gather the details of Dr. Ousset and her husband, which constitutes an act of intimidation towards the professionals.

Carlos Sanchez, the archbishop of Tucuman, called a demonstration during the night to be “custodians of the unborn child”. Several people, who were anti-abortion rights, gathered outside the hospital, praying and asking that the child continue with the pregnancy.

Meanwhile, the health ministry of the province issued a press release, stating that the Legal Termination of Pregnancy (ILE) would be carried out, but would follow “the necessary procedures in an attempt to save the two lives.”

Abortion is illegal in Argentina, but a ruling, established in 1921, allows it to be performed until the 24th week of gestation in case of a rape and when the life of a pregnant woman is at risk. Following this ruling, the Provincial Health System of Tucumán (SiProSa) issued the order for abortion, but it was delayed by seven weeks due to disputes over the case between the hospital authorities and the provincial government, as well as pressure from the local ecclesiastical leadership.

The girl and her family approached the hospital on January 23, when she was 16 weeks pregnant but the hospital authorities refused to carry out the abortion. It is reported that throughout her stay at the hospital, she was not given proper psychological assistance and was emotionally tortured and manipulated by the hospital professionals into continuing to develop the fetus.

The health secretary of Tucumán, Gustavo Vigliocco, claimed that he had “a closeness with the girl and her mother,” and even said that “the girl wants to continue with her pregnancy”.

Mariana Carabajal, a journalist working for Página 12, confirmed that the girl had to request an abortion at least eight times. “I want you to take this out what the old man put in me,” the girl told the hospital psychologist. Her inscribed medical history states that she had attempted suicide and was hospitalized due to self-harm. Her mother had even cut off from food supply in order to claim legal abortion for her daughter. The Ni Una Menos [Not One Less] collective of Tucumán also urged the SiProSa and the Attorney General to respect the girl’s right to access the legal abortion.

The doctor had indicated that there was risk to her life. “A child of that age is in danger of death because her body is not developed to continue the pregnancy,” said the doctor. Despite this, the conservative provincial government, healthcare professionals and religious groups forced her into motherhood, utterly ignoring the desperate plea of the tortured minor and adding to her agony.

This is the second case in which the victim has been denied the right to ILE and forced to a C-section in Argentina. The first surfaced in January in the Jujuy province, with similar resistance from the provincial, religious and medical entities. The child of the 12-year-old girl, who was raped by her 58-year-old neighbor, died after 4 days in the neonatology unit of the hospital. In this case, the child is still alive but the doctors have indicated that the newborn has a 50% chance of life.

The National Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, the Ni Una Menos collective, the women, social as well as human rights organizations of Argentina condemned the violation of human rights of the abused minor. They demanded the resignation of the governor, Juan Manzur, health minister Rossana Chahla, defense minister Washington Navarro Dávila and health secretary Gustavo Vigliocco. They also demanded the implementation of the protocol of ILE in the whole province.

On February 19, thousands of women and transgender people demonstrated across the main districts of Argentina to demand the approval of the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy Bill (IVE), full implementation of the Law on Comprehensive Sexual Education (ESI), strengthening of the “National Program for Sexual Health and Responsible Procreation” and compliance of the “protocol for the comprehensive care of people with right to the legal termination of pregnancy (ILE)” in all districts. A major rally demanding these rights is planned to be carried out on March 8.