A 12-year-old girl has given birth to twins in Argentina after being denied an abortion by local authorities despite having been raped.
Authorities in Jujuy forced the child to remain pregnant until the twins could be safely delivered by caesarean section.
Legislation around abortion is extremely strict in Argentina, which only legalised the procedure in cases of rape last year.
Devoutly Catholic Latin America is home to several countries considered to have the world’s toughest restriction on abortion.
The name of the 12-year-old girl is unknown, as is her attacker’s identity, but outraged medical professionals have decried the authorities’ decision to deny her a legal abortion.
The Jujuy branch of Health Professionals for the Right to Decide released a damning statement on the handling of the case:
‘Despite the fact that the National Directorate of Sexual Health made an offer to immediately resolve the situation, preserving the physical and emotional health of the girl, the authorities in charge of the local Health portfolio, rejected the proposal and they decided not to guarantee this girl her right to ILE (legal interruption of pregnancy),’ the statement read.
It was posted to social media along with a comment accusing the State of ‘sinisterly perpetuating’ inequalities faced by abused girls when it should be protecting them.
A 12-year-old rape victim reportedly underwent a caesarean section operation at the Hector Quintana Maternal and Child hospital last Sunday after being denied an abortion. A local branch of Health Professionals for the Right to Decide, accused authorities of deliberately delaying acting on the girl’s situation until she was far enough into her pregnancy for the twins to survive outside of her womb
The girl reportedly underwent a caesarean section operation at the Hector Quintana Maternal and Child hospital last Sunday.
Health Professionals for the Right to Decide, accused authorities of deliberately delaying acting on the girl’s situation until she was far enough into her pregnancy for the twins to survive outside of her womb.
Legislation around abortion in Argentina does not set a time limit for legal abortions but authorities and health officials often set arbitrary limits, according to Human Rights Watch.
The 12-year-old girl lives in Monterrico, a city in northwestern Argentina about 37km from San Salvador de Jujuy, according to El Comerico.
She has now been placed under the care of the Children’s Ombudsman due to her parent’s ‘legal situation’, according to the statement from Health Professionals for the Right to Decide.
No other information has been released on the girl’s case, including any response from local authorities.
The incident is just the latest to highlight the difficulties of securing a legal abortion in Argentina, where the procedure remains extremely controversial.
Currently, abortion is covered by Section 86 of the country’s 1921 criminal code.
It dictated that a pregnancy can only be legally terminated when it endangers the woman’s life or health. However, the legislation was updated in 2019 to give rape victims access to legal abortions.
In all other instances, abortion is considered a criminal offence punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The sentence for self-inducing abortion or consenting to the procedure is up to four years.
Abortion has been part of huge protests in Argentina under the slogan #NiUnaMenos (Not One Woman/Girl Less), which began as a demonstration against femicide but has expanded to include issues such as abortion and the sexual abuse of women. Pictured: A protester in Buenos Aires in 2018 [File photo]
Along with the woman having the abortion, doctors, surgeons, midwives and pharmacists can also be criminally charged.
In 2018, Argentina’s Senate rejected a bill that would have fully decriminalised abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Access to the procedure remains difficult even for those permitted access to a legal abortion, according to Human Rights Watch.
An August 2020 report from the group found that women seeking abortions in Argentina faced huge barriers including arbitrarily imposed gestational limits, mistreatment by health workers, stigmatisation and fear of prosecution.
The situation forces many women to seek illegal abortions which can be dangerous and even life threatening.
Activists are hopeful that the legislation will be loosened following promises to do so by the country’s president Alberto Fernandez, who took office in December 2019.
The issue has been part of huge protests in Argentina under the slogan #NiUnaMenos (Not One Woman/Girl Less), which began as a demonstration against femicide but has expanded to include issues such as abortion and the sexual abuse of women.
In Jujuy province, where the 12-year-old lives, 685 adolescent births were recorded in public hospitals this year, according to TodoJujuy, a local media outlet.
Of these, 20 of the mothers were rape victims between the ages of 10 and 14.
The shocking figures are actually a decrease from the previous two years thought to be due in part to legislation aimed at tackling issues around sexual health.