An 11-year-old Argentinian girl was forced to give birth to her rapist’s child via C-section after the government denied her an abortion for several weeks, igniting outrage across the country.
The girl, who advocates and reporters have referred to simply as “Lucía” in order to protect her identity, became pregnant after her grandmother’s 65-year-old partner raped her, according to local media. Almost immediately, she filed for a legal interruption of pregnancy (interrupción legal del embarazo) in Tucumán — a self-declared “pro-life province” in Argentina.
“I want this thing the old man put inside me taken out,” she told authorities, per BBC. (The alleged rapist has been arrested.)
But the girl quickly ran into complications with the government. Although her mother agreed with her wishes to terminate the pregnancy, there was confusion over who actually qualified as her legal guardian: She’d been placed in her grandmother’s care, but her grandmother was stripped of her status as guardian for co-habitating with the child’s rapist. And by the time authorities figured out what to do, Lucía was already 23 weeks pregnant.
On Tuesday, the Tucumán a las 7 reports that health authorities told the hospital director to carry out the “necessary procedures to attempt to save both [the child’s and the fetus’s] lives,” per a family judge’s decision. (The judge denies this order.) Out of concern for Lucía’s well-being, doctors decided that a C-section at 23 weeks pregnant was less risky than an abortion.
When Cecilia Ousset, one of the doctors who performed the C-section, first saw Lucía, she told the New York Times that she “almost became sick.”
“She wasn’t developed and was playing with toys and her mom,” Ousset said. And, as it turns out, the procedure posed a serious threat to the girl’s well-being. “The girl’s life was at risk,” Ousset continued, noting that the girl’s blood pressure rose to a dangerously high level in the operating room.
These reports come nearly seven months after Argentina rejected what would’ve been a groundbreaking bill for the South American country: the legalization of abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Less than a week after the vote, a 24-year-old mother of two died from septic shock after attempting to induce a miscarriage at home.
Though abortion is technically legal in cases of rape and lethal threat to the mother’s body, even women seeking legal abortions face often insurmountable barriers — namely, finding a doctor to perform the procedure. And, as in the case of the young girl, byzantine legal requirements around the procedure can make accessing care impossible as well.
Following the C-section, various human rights groups and people involved in the case slammed the Tucumán state health authorities over what they believe were “unjustified delays” and “violations of rights,” arguing that authorities had deliberately kept the child pregnant long enough that she would have to give birth.
According to a lawyer who is representing Lucía, hospital officials gave her drugs that quickened the development of the fetus, and allowed anti-abortion activists to visit her hospital room. Meanwhile, provincial authorities are accused of withholding from the family the “proper information” they needed to exercise their rights.
“I believe that [the governor of Tucumán] Juan Manzur, due to an electoral issue, prevented the legal interruption of the pregnancy and forced to the child to give birth,” Ousset told the Buenos Aires Times.
This post has been updated with additional details from the New York Times report.