After being sexually abused by her grandmother's partner last year, an 11-year-old Argentinian girl gave birth after being denied an abortion, The Guardian reported. The girl, who the authorities have identified as "Lucía" to protect her identity, underwent a caesarean section on Tuesday, 23 weeks into her pregnancy. According to The Guardian, authorities ignored multiple abortion requests from Lucía, despite her doctor testifying in court that maintaining the pregnancy would pose a “high obstetric risk."
Abortion is illegal in Argentina except in cases of life endangerment and rape, but the health secretary of Argentina's Tucumán province insisted that Lucía wanted to continue her pregnancy rather than getting an abortion, per The Guardian. According to the BBC, however, Lucía made it clear to officials that she wanted an abortion, saying, "I want this thing the old man put inside me taken out."
Women's rights and abortion activists in Argentina swiftly condemned authorities' treatment of Lucía, arguing that they had "tortured" her while debating what to do about her pregnancy.
“There are those who tortured an 11-year-old rape victim in Tucumán," Argentine novelist Claudia Piñeiro tweeted on Wednesday, as translated by The Guardian. "It’s dangerous they have such power and that we were not able to prevent it.”
Cecilia Ousset, one of the doctors who performed Lucía's C-section, echoed this sentiment, telling The Guardian that “we saved the life of an 11-year-old girl who was tortured for a month by the provincial health system.” And journalist and activist Mariana Carbajal, who initially broke the news about Lucía, tweeted on Wednesday that “Tucumán treated her like a receptacle, like an incubator.”
According to local news outlet Tucamán a las 7, both Lucía and her mother had requested a legal interruption of pregnancy, or ILE. However, Lucía's request was delayed due to uncertainty about her legal guardian, per The Independent. Although her mother provided parental consent for Lucía to have an abortion, Lucía had reportedly been placed in her grandmother's care in 2015, so her mother's consent was deemed insufficient.
Her grandmother, meanwhile, lost her guardianship privileges after her partner sexually abused Lucía, The Independent reported, so she also could not provide consent. As a result, Argentine health authorities repeatedly delayed making a decision in Lucía's case. They ultimately ordered a C-section, citing a family court's ruling to carry out "necessary procedures to attempt to save both lives." However, the family court in question reportedly did not ask doctors to save two lives, per the BBC.
“For electoral reasons they [the authorities] prevented the legal interruption of the pregnancy and forced the little girl to give birth,” Ousset told The Guardian. “My legs trembled when I saw her, it was like seeing my younger daughter. The little girl didn’t understand completely what was going to happen.”
Lucía reportedly faced additional hurdles because several doctors invoked their right to conscientious objection and refused to perform an abortion, per The Buenos Aires Times.
According to The New York Times, a bill to legalize abortion in Argentina was narrowly rejected by the Argentine Senate in August, despite months of advocacy from grassroots pro-choice groups across Latin America.