No matter one’s stance on contraception and abortion, most people feel sympathetic for a 9-year-old rape victim who is impregnated with twins by her step father, and is forced to undergo an abortion to save her life.
The Catholic Church, however, excommunicated those who helped rescue her.
In 2009, a 9 year old in Brazil had to have an emergency abortion after her mother brought her to the hospital for complaining about severe stomach pains and discovered the girl was four months pregnant. But after the procedure, instead of embracing the victim and offering to help the family, the Catholic Church excommunicated the doctor who performed the abortion and the girl’s mother.
The Church did not excommunicate the rapist:
The controversy represents a PR nightmare for the Vatican. The unnamed girl’s mother and doctors were excommunicated for agreeing to Wednesday’s emergency abortion yet the Church has not taken formal steps against the stepfather, who is in custody. Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, the conservative regional archbishop for Pernambuco where the girl was rushed to hospital, has said that the man would not be thrown out of the Church, because although he had allegedly committed “a heinous crime”, the Church took the view that “the abortion, the elimination of an innocent life, was more serious”.
The case has set off fierce debate in Brazil, where abortion is permitted only in cases of rape or medical emergency. Brazil is one of the most populous Catholic countries, but conservative attitudes in rural areas are strongly at odds with the relatively progressive public view of abortion in major cities.
While the circumstances are much more grave in this example, the same conflict of beliefs is now happening the United States: While 82 percent of Catholics support birth control use, the Catholic Church is suing to have it removed from required health care plans.
This case shows the extent to which some far-right leaders in the Catholic Church will go to fight against what they charge as morally reprehensible — even if the vast majority of their adherents don’t agree, or consider the charges flipped.
This story has been edited to reflect the fact that the incident occurred in 2009.