The case of a pregnant 11-year-old girl, whose mother asked a court to give her daughter permission to have her pregnancy interrupted - but later unexpectedly dropped the petition - has renewed the controversy in Argentina about legalizing abortion.
Non-governmental organizations spoke Friday about the possibility that pressure had been put on the family of the girl, now three months pregnant, after the mother unexpectedly told the court in the Argentine province of Entre Rios that she wished to withdraw the petition for her daughter to be allowed an abortion.
Estela Diaz, representative of the National Campaign for Safe and Free Abortion, composed of several activist groups, told the press that “attorneys (of the NGOs) are investigating the matter in order to take action based on the pressure the family may have faced.”
The girl’s mother, who changed her mind after a hearing with the judge in the case, Raul Tomaselli, “was intimidated, pressured and manipulated to drop the petition for an interrupted pregnancy,” a communique from the Campaign said.
Attorney Maria Benitez, acting on behalf of the girl’s family and of the hospital in the city of San Salvador, had presented on Jan. 16 a petition before the Entre Rios court for the girl to be permitted an abortion on grounds that she had been sexually abused by a youth of 17 and that there was a risk to her health.
The teenager, under investigation for sexual abuse, was summoned by Judge Jose Tournour, but refused to make a statement, judicial officials said.
Local media said the mother had asked the hospital in San Salvador to practice an abortion on her daughter, but they told her she should first seek authorization from the court.
“They acted improperly because medical personnel should not have made the subject a legal matter, and when Judge Tomaselli received the case, he should have sent the girl to a medical center for an abortion, since that is covered in Article 86 of the Penal Code,” Diaz said.
Abortion is banned by law in Argentina except when the pregnant woman’s life or health is in danger, or when the pregnancy stems from the rape of a disabled woman.
The controversy heightened with the report from the Masvernat provincial hospital that the minor was “in perfect physical condition to sustain the pregnancy” and that “the fetus is also in good condition from a medical standpoint.”
The report, requested by Judge Tomaselli, was rejected by several social organizations.
The lower the age of a pregnant girl, “the greater the risk of dying from complications related to pregnancy and giving birth,” Ariel Karolinski of the Argentine Alliance for the Health of the Mother, Newborn and Child, or Asumen, said on the radio Saturday.
He said “the principal study of maternal mortality in Argentina establishes a clear connection between the risk of a mother dying and her age.”