A pregnant 10-year-old in Paraguay has triggered an abortion debate, with emotions running high on both sides. On April 21, the girl was brought to a clinic by her mother who thought she had a tumor. It was soon discovered that the girl was 21 weeks pregnant. Her mother was arrested by authorities who believe she allowed the abuse to happen. The girl was allegedly raped by her step-father.
Abortion is illegal is Paraguay except in cases were the mother’s life is in danger. The country is mostly conservative Roman Catholics. Humanitarian groups believe that the 75 pound girl’s body can not support the pregnancy, and that her life is in danger. While the Catholic Church, the government, the courts, and other groups insist that due to how far along the pregnancy is, that it not be terminated.
The debate over the pregnant 10-year-old has triggered strong reactions in the country about abortion. Msgr. Claudio Gimenez, the country’s Episcopal Conference president, spoke of the division the pregnancy is causing the country. He went on to say that some want to legalize abortion, saying that it was the killing of an innocent child, and others do not want it to be legal. A former health minister, Sen. Esperanza Martinez, complained that the girl’s physical and mental well-being was being over looked and that they are only taking into consideration whether or not she will be able to physically have the child. She said to officials that the girl is being treated as a birth canal and a uterus.
On Saturday after being on the run for 15 days, the man who allegedly raped the 10-year-old was arrested. Her step-father, Gilberto Benitez, 42, claims that he is innocent, saying that he was set up by the girl’s mother who is his ex-girlfriend. He told reporters that he has slept with hundreds of girls, and had never impregnated any of them. He is willing to take a paternity test to prove his innocence.
Paraguay has a population of 6.8 million, around 600 girls that are under the age of 14 become pregnant every year in the country. Thousands of children in the U.S deliver babies every year according to the Census Bureau.
Amnesty International has pleaded with authorities to allow the abortion. They say it will protect the girl. They have asked that they at least set up a medial panel to evaluate her health. Antonio Barros, the Health Minister, has said that the pregnancy which is at five months is too far advanced for such a procedure, and that the girl is at a Red Cross hospital in good health. He said that the pregnancy will not be interrupted and that they have completely ruled out her having an abortion. She is staying in a special ward for pregnant adolescents. Six girls are in the ward with her, they are either pregnant or recently have given birth. Out of all the girls there she is the youngest. She will give birth by cesarean section to prevent any complications, according to the head of the Clinical Hospital. On Wednesday, a request by the girl’s mother to consider the possibility of an abortion was denied by a judge.
The abortion debate triggered by the pregnancy of a 10-year-old will continue to rage on, with people from both sides airing their views. Paraguay has made their decision, and until the country changes their very strict abortion laws more pregnancy like this will end with young girls being forced to carry a child to term.
By Jessica Hamel
Photo by Lance Nishihira-Creativecommons Flickr License