Health

11-Year-Old Rape Victim Gives Birth After Being Denied An Abortion

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jorge Saenz

A 13-year-old girl holds her one-month old baby at a shelter for troubled children in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay

An 11-year-old girl in Paraguay who became pregnant after being raped by her stepfather — and whose case sparked international outrage after Paraguayan officials prohibited her from getting an abortion — has given birth to a daughter.

International human rights groups say that, while the girl and her newborn are both healthy, the birth highlights the fact that Paraguay’s current abortion ban is much too stringent.

In Paraguay, abortion is illegal except in very rare cases when the procedure is deemed necessary to save a woman’s life. Government officials said that the 11-year-old girl, referred to with the pseudonym “Mainumby” in legal documents, was not in danger from her pregnancy — even though medical experts say that young adolescents under the age of 15 are more at risk for medical complications during childbirth.

Mainumby’s child was delivered via Cesarean section because doctors determined that a vaginal birth would be too dangerous.

Paraguay’s decision to deny an abortion to Mainumby, who became pregnant when she was just 10 years old, was subject to intense international scrutiny. In May, several United Nations officials criticized Paraguay for failing to “act with due diligence” to protect the girl. In June, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights tried to pressure the Paraguayan government to change its mind. Amnesty International also launched a petition calling on officials to reverse course, saying that Paraguay’s denial of Mainumby’s reproductive rights was akin to torture.

Erika Guevara, the Americas Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement that her organization is glad to hear that Mainumby and her child are healthy, but “only time will tell the true extent of the physical and psychological consequences of her tragic ordeal.”

“The fact that ‘Mainumby’ did not die does not excuse the human rights violations she suffered at the hands of the Paraguayan authorities, who decided to gamble with her health, life and integrity despite overwhelming evidence that this pregnancy was extremely risky and despite the fact that she was a rape-victim and a child,” Guervara added.

Not every girl is as lucky. According to the World Health Organization, girls in Latin America who give birth before they turn 16 years old are four times more likely to die during childbirth than young women in their twenties. The United Nations estimates that 700,000 adolescents in developing countries die each year from unsafe childbirth. In Paraguay specifically, 28 minors died last year from complications that resulted from giving birth.

Latin America has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world. There, desperate women who attempt to end a pregnancy often end up in prison on charges of murdering their unborn children.