Pregnant 10 Year Old Girl in Paraguay Refused Abortion

By Emma Husband, Staff Writer

The refusal to allow a 10 year old girl to have an abortion has sparked outrage in Paraguay and across the world.

The girl was admitted to hospital with stomach pains and a suspected tumour, when it was discovered she was actually pregnant.

Tests revealed that her stepfather is the perpetrator.

Under Paraguayan law, abortion is prohibited unless the mother's life is in danger. The judgment by health minister, Antonio Barrios, that she cannot have an abortion is based on his belief that her life is not at risk and the fact that she is in the 23rd week of pregnancy.

This has caused a wider debate in Paraguay surrounding abortion laws, given also that 2 girls between the ages of 10 and 15 give birth every day. These births are the results of rape, where inadequate support, particularly in the poorest communities means that often the cycle of abuse and pregnancy repeats itself.

The girl's mother requested that a team of medical experts consider the case for abortion but this was rejected by a judge.

The mother has since been arrested for aiding the stepfather, Gilberto Benitez Zarate, to escape questioning.

28 girls under 16 died in childbirth last year in Paraguay. The risk of death or complications during childbirth is much greater in this age range because a girl's uterus is often not fully developed. This means that the pelvis may not be able to bear a child passing through it.

Other potential complications include fistulas, increased vaginal ripping and psychological trauma.

Amnesty International is campaigning for the Paraguayan government to allow the girl to have a late term abortion.

In the meantime, the girl is being cared for in the Red Cross hospital in Asuncion. Her stepfather is still on the run.