Argentina Provincial Court Says Mentally Disabled Woman Can Have Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 23, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Argentina Provincial Court Says Mentally Disabled Woman Can Have Abortion Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 23, 2006

Buenos Aires, Argentina ( — A provincial court in Argentina has overturned a judge’s decision and ruled that a mentally disabled woman who is a victim of rape can have an abortion. A judge had previously agreed to stop the abortion and issued an injunction preventing it after pro-life groups objected to an earlier ruling by another judge.

Justices Aída Kemelmajer de Carlucci and Claudio Romano of the Mendoza Supreme Court ruled that it is up to doctors to determine whether the potential abortion falls within the two exceptions granted under Argentina law.

The nation prohibits abortions unless the pregnancy directly threats the life of the mother or the women is mentally disabled and a victim of rape.

However, the guidelines also say that abortions may not be done in those instances if the abortion is done during the 21st week of pregnancy or later.

The abortion was scheduled to be done in a public hospital Monday morning, Provincial Health Minister Armando Caletti told the Buenos Aires Herald newspaper, but the second judge’s ruling stopped it.

The newspaper reported the unnamed woman is 25 yeard-old but only has the mental capacity of a four year-old child.

Lawyer Dante Vega, who represents the family of the young woman from Mendoza, a province about 600 miles west of Buenos Aires, said he would appeal the second judge’s decision and go to the nation’s Supreme Court if necessary to get the abortion approved.

The case is similar to one that made international headlines only weeks ago.

Doctors at St. Martin’s hospital eventually refused to do the abortion on a mentally disabled 19 year-old who was also a victim of rape. A top provincial court said the teenager, who was five months pregnant, can have the abortion.

The doctors argued that the pregnancy was too far along to conduct an abortion or induce birth early.

The debate over abortions on raped women who are mentally disabled is prompting a firestorm of controversy at a time when abortion advocates are pressing hard to legalize abortions in pro-life South American countries.

The Néstor Kirchner administration and the Catholic Church have fought about the issue and, during the debate over the first woman, Health Minister Ginés González García accused pro-life advocates of being "hypocrites," and claimed that more than 400,000 illegal abortions occur annually in Argentina, a nation of only 38 million people.

With the previous abortion case, Doctor Liliana Soria, a member of the hospital’s OBGYN department, said doctors are only allowed by law to do abortions in specific cases such as the one involving the girl, known by her initials LMR.

However, he said that an abortion would have to be done before 20 weeks into pregnancy and the girl is 21 weeks along.

“In this case we’re already past the stage of abortion. It’s an advanced pregnancy,” Soria said, according to the newspaper.

In that case, two lower courts denied the abortion and cited a constitutional mandate to protect the right to life of unborn children.

But the top court in the Buenos Aires province reversed their decisions saying the two exceptions Argentina allows for abortions do not contradict the nation’s pro-life constitution. It said the courts should never have blocked the abortion.

The case could have been appealed to the nation’s Supreme Court and a Catholic priest offered to adopt the teenager’s baby.

Colombia’s top court ruled in May that abortion should be legal in cases of the life of the mother, rape and incest, and when the baby has major physical deformities.

Uruguay saw its House approve a bill to legalize abortions in 2004, but the Senate wound up defeating the measure. The nation’s Congress is debating a new measure, but the country’s president has said he would veto it.

Brazil is also debating whether to legalize abortions, though a poll there shows a majority of the nation’s residents are strongly pro-life and want the pro-life laws there to remain on the books.