Lucia (2019) – Argentina

11-year old rape victim denied abortion and forced to give birth by C-section

“Lucia”, an 11-year-old victim of rape by her grandmother’s 65-year old partner was forced to gave birth in the province of Tucumán, Argentina on Feb 26, 2019, after she was denied an abortion by authorities and doctors for nearly five weeks. Lucia and her mother had repeatedly asked for an abortion during this time. The girl had begged officials to “remove what the old man put inside me.” Lucia also had attempted to commit suicide twice upon learning of her pregnancy in late January. She was hospitalized and later placed in state care as a result of apparent self-inflicted lesions. Abortion is legal in Argentina in cases of rape, when the woman is mentally disabled, or if there is a serious risk to her health. Lucia clearly qualified for a legal abortion on two of these grounds, since her small size made carrying a pregnancy very risky.

In her 23rd week of pregnancy, a court order was issued granting permission for Lucia’s abortion (even though court intervention is not required under the law). But several doctors at Eva Perón Hospital refused to perform the abortion, exercising their “right” to conscientious objection.  Two other doctors stepped in and performed a “micro” C-section, claiming an abortion was too risky for the girl. Although it’s unclear exactly what happened and why, they may have been under pressure from hospital officials not to do an abortion and instead attempt to “save both lives”, even though the court order never specificed that. (The baby was extracted alive but is not expected to survive.) The two doctors who did the C-section were angry at the politicization of Lucia’s case.

Women’s rights activists and one of the doctors who performed the C-section also cited political reasons for the systemic violation of the girl’s rights, saying that Tucumán’s governor, Juan Manzur, used Lucia to push a political agenda. The provincial Secretary of Health, Gustavo Vigliocco, claimed to be personally involved and that the girl wanted to continue the pregnancy, also falsely claiming he himself “cannot not make any decision.” A doctor who performed the C-section, Dr. Cecilia Ousset, said: “We saved the life of an 11-year-old girl who was tortured for a month by the provincial health system. For electoral reasons they [the authorities] prevented the legal interruption of the pregnancy and forced the little girl to give birth.” Feminist activist Mariana Carbajal said the government treated Lucia “like a receptacle, like an incubator.”

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