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10-Year-Old Girl Raped by Stepfather Is Refused an Abortion in Paraguay

Health officials in Paraguay say a late-term abortion could put the girl's life at risk, but international health advocacy groups say going through with the pregnancy will also endanger the girl's life.
Imagen vía Flickr

A ten-year-old girl in Paraguay who is five months pregnant has been denied an abortion that could possibly save her life.

The girl and her mother, who have not been named publicly, asked the government to allow the operation despite Paraguay's strict abortion laws. The procedure is not permitted even in instances of rape, incest, or malformation of the fetus.

Paraguayan health authorities on April 28 refused her mother's petition to allow the girl to terminate the pregnancy.


Human rights organizations are asking Paraguay to respect an exception in the penal code, which states that abortion is permissible "with the intent of saving the life of a woman who is in danger due to the pregnancy or birth."

Amnesty International has taken on the case, calling on the government of Paraguay "to ensure her life, and health, and therefore provide the abortion as her mother has also already requested."

"Of course, carrying the fetus to term can bring lots of risk not just for her health but also her life," María Jose Eva Parada, an Americas researcher with Amnesty International, told VICE News on Thursday.

Luz Torres, president of the Paraguayan obstetricians association, recommended against the operation, arguing the risks of performing a late-term abortion.

Girls in Latin America under the age of 16 are four times more likely to die during childbirth than young women in their twenties, according to a report by the World Health Organization.

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The girl was reportedly unaware of the pregnancy until visiting doctors last week for a growth that her mother suspected was a tumor.

The girl's mother has been detained for alleged complicity in repeated sexual abuse perpetrated by her husband, Gilberto Benítez Núñez, 42, whose whereabouts are unknown since last week, authorities said. Prosecutor Monalisa Muñoz said the girl's stepfather is "dangerous" and could harm other girls.


Although not an expert, Muñoz conceded "the pregnancy puts the girl's life at risk, and that of the baby, because her uterus has not developed sufficiently."

According to the Paraguayan health ministry, 28 minors died last year due to complications related to childbirth, whereas 14 underage mothers died due to failed abortions, performed under unknown circumstances, in 2014.

It is unclear whether the girl will be forced to carry the baby to term or whether the Paraguayan government will change its position and intervene.

"So far our appeal for [the Paraguayan government] to provide an abortion for the girl has not been responded to," Parada said. "The legal structure that Paraguay has nowadays to respond to women and girls' rights — to sexually selective rights — is far behind the obligations of the state as they relate to international human rights law."

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Follow Andrea Noel on Twitter @MetabolizedJunkPhoto via Flickr.