Argentina: Abortion for rape victim blocked by medical and legal delays

Demonstration in Misiones.
(Photo: Aborto Legal Argentina)

Sources:CELS, Misiones Online

In Argentina, in the province of Misiones, 10 civil society organizations have accused the health system and the courts of failing to enforce the right to an abortion of a 14 year old girl who was raped. The child’s parents tried to obtain an abortion from the medical services and from the law courts, but they were met with delays and the case dragged on past the thirteenth week of pregnancy, and they have now withdrawn the petition they submitted to the courts.

They abandoned their efforts on Wednesday, August 10, the same day that civil society organizations went public over the case. First the hospital where the girl received medical attention refused to abort, claiming that she had to have prior legal authorization to have an abortion. But, as is made clear in a public declaration signed by various institutions including the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), the focal point of Social Watch in Argentina, “The Penal Code does not require (nor can it require) prior authorization from the courts for what is essentially a medical procedure”.

According to Nina Brugo, President of the Commission for Women of the Lawyers Association of Buenos Aires, on the portal Misiones Online, “This situation is covered in sub-paragraph 2 of article 86 of the Penal Code. If a sexual assault involving a member of the same family results in the victim becoming pregnant”, which is what happened here, “…there is no need for the law to be involved, there is no need to ask permission from a judge” because “the doctors are authorized” and instructed to act directly by the National Ministry of Health.

The legal situation is that the family judge who handled the petition received it from the judge who dealt with the rape case, but subsequently returned the petition to the former, who took it to the Supreme Court of Misiones and was instructed to take charge of the case.

Civil society organizations have made the following declaration:

One right, many rapes

In the province of Misiones, in the case of a child of 14 who was raped by a member of the same family, the health system erred yet again by not enforcing her right to a legally authorized abortion as laid down in the Penal Code.

To make matters worse, the legal system failed in its basic obligation to enforce the girl’s rights and delayed a ruling that would have protected her from successive violations of her human rights. Although the Penal Code does not require (nor can it require) prior authorization for what is essentially a medical procedure, the legal system’s failure to intervene in this matter has exacerbated the lack of protection and denial of justice this child has suffered.
This case is yet another example of a serious situation that occurs in various legal jurisdictions in the country and it has been denounced by many non governmental organizations in various international forums. But in spite of concrete recommendations from the United Nations and the Organization of American States, the Argentine State has failed to comply with these rulings and women are still suffering the consequences of deficient public policies that not only avoid the problem of violence in inter-family relations but fail to ensure access to information, contraceptives or morning-after pills in cases of pregnancies resulting from rape (and a range of situations including sexual assault).

The undersigned organizations call on the State – at the national as well as province and municipal levels – to intervene at once in the case of this girl and prevent any further violations of her rights.

Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC)
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (CDD)
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
Crisálida Tucumán
Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM-Argentina)
Equipo Latinoamericano de Justicia y Género (ELA)
Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer (FEIM)
Mujeres Autoconvocadas de Trelew
Multisectorial de Mujeres de Santa Fé
Tramas. Derecho en Movimiento (Santa Fé)