Argentina Mentally Disabled Rape Victim Has Abortion, Catholic Church Upset

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 30, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Argentina Mentally Disabled Rape Victim Has Abortion, Catholic Church Upset Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 30
, 2006

Buenos Aires, Argentina ( — A mentally disabled woman who was a victim of rape has had an abortion, following a legal battle in the South American nation’s courts. The Catholic Church reacted to the news and said pro-life advocates in the nation need to do more to make sure the abortion doesn’t open the floodgates for legalizing more.

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

Last week, a provincial court overturned a judge’s decision and ruled the rape victim could have the abortion.

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

Following the abortion, Archbishop Jose Maria Arancibia of Mendoza said the church should offer its love and forgiveness rather than condemnation.

“We do not judge, nor condemn. We offer our prayers to God," he said.

“From the beginning of this delicate issue, we have tried to balance firmness and charity in the defense of life with respect for individuals and institutions," he explained. He said the Church favored "the human rights of the mother and the unborn child" but had to also make sure it was following the law.

Arancibia defended pro-life advocates who protested the abortion outside the hospital.

“They have made legitimate use of the means that democracy puts into the hands of citizens when they want to defend what they consider to be most important for social life,” he said. “It is unjust to characterize their conduct as authoritarian or dogmatic.”

Arancibia indicated a Catholic priest from the diocese went to the hospital where the abortion was done.

He encouraged Catholic priests and church members to continue to work to preserve the protection of human life.

Argentina 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.

Lawyer Dante Vega, who represented the family of the young woman from Mendoza, a province about 600 miles west of Buenos Aires, said he would have taken the case to the nation’s Supreme Court if necessary to get the abortion approved.

The woman’s situation was 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, could 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.

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.