Tragedy in Paraguay

May 6, 2015 • 2:30 pm

by Grania

On Friday CNN reported a tragic case of a 10 year old Paraguayan girl who was raped by her stepfather and is now pregnant. The child has already been betrayed in the worst possible way by the adults in her life who should have protected her, and now it seems she will be betrayed again by adults as her potentially perilous condition becomes the subject of national and international politics. Although abortion is legal in Paraguay, it is permitted only under quite restricted circumstances (i.e., not rape nor incest nor fetal malformation) and at the moment she is being denied an abortion because her life doesn’t appear to be in danger.

The World Health Organization has collected ample data on the dangers of adolescent and pre-adolescent pregnancies and their dangers; these include haemorrhaging, infection, tearing and death.

Sadly, this type of case does not seem to be unique. Amnesty International points out:

According to recent data from the UN, girls aged 10-14 make up 2.13% of maternal deaths in Paraguay. Two births a day are from girls under 14. 

The current dispute appears to be a medical one, with Paraguayan officials claiming that the child is not entitled to an abortion if her life is not in danger; and in fact claiming that an abortion would be more dangerous; but the current statistics in the country do not make a particularly strong case for them. Vice News reports this:

According to the Paraguayan health ministry, 28 minors died last year due to complications related to childbirth, whereas 14 underage mothers died due to failed abortions, performed under unknown circumstances, in 2014.

Needless to say, the predominant religion is Roman Catholicism – up to 88% according to recent polls. Restrictive and inhumane abortion policies always seem to go hand in hand with countries where a significant government majority are Catholics.

Of course there are other serious contributing factors as well: poverty, illiteracy, lack of access to birth control. The WHO report to the UN from 2012 makes for rather grim reading, as the consequences of high adolescent pregnancy rates tend to exacerbate the existing problems.

Still, it’s maddening (and saddening) that there seems to be so little compassion for a child who should still have all her life and youth ahead of her.

So what can you do about it? Amnesty International is asking people to support their petition to ask the Paraguayan government to allow the child an abortion. But you could always start closer to home if adolescents, and in fact adult women, are at similar risk in your own countries. Lobby your politicians. It won’t change until politicians feel it is in their interest to do something about it. Support charities that promote education and health: they make a difference.

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JAC note: I think that if there were no religions in our world, stuff like this wouldn’t be happening. What secular view of life would maintain that a 10-year-old child, raped by her stepfather, should be forced to carry the fetus to term?

36 thoughts on “Tragedy in Paraguay

  1. Thank you for writing about this. I was reading the comments in The Guardian, and so many ignorant asshats were making the argument that pregnancy and birth for pre-teens is absolutely safe, because: “old enough to bleed, old enough to breed.”

    Ugh.

    In related news, a Christian lawmaker wants to force women to carry dying fetuses to term because God loves suffering.

    http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/05/24/2055311/gohmert-fetal-abnormalities-abortion-bill/

    1. Oops, wrong link. I should have checked.

      Here is the new one:
      http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2015/04/28/texas-tea-partier-says-grieving-pregnant/
      Texas Legislator Thinks Pregnant People Should be Forced to Carry Dead Fetuses to “Do Penance”

      Pro lifers also argued in favour of forcing pregnant teenage trafficking victims to give birth, denying them Plan B, along with reproductive health referrals. Oh, and the charities that are refusing to help these girls 1) are religious 2) receive public funds

      1. Sickening. This somehow reminds me of an old political cartoon by Oliphant of a bunch of snooty looking lawmakers describing their (much More Important) views on abortion:
        ‘Well, if I were pregnant, I certainly would never get an abortion!’

    2. This poor kid. The bleed/breed narrative is one that particularly sickens me – it is the catch-cry of paedophiles the world over.

      And once again, the Catholic Church is destroying the life of a child in the name of their cruel and inhumane god. And once again, it is women and children who suffer the most.

      1. The first time I heard that argument it was from a Catholic, who was arguing that it was safe for an 11yo rape victim to birth twins.

        What never ceases to amaze me is how ignorant pro lifers are in regards to the dangers of pregnancy. They, especially the men, think that its all fairy farts and unicorns. When I do explain the long list of side effects, they will say that the woman *chose* death/ disability when she “spread her legs”.

        But it isn’t misogyny. Oh no. They are just being realiatic!!!

      2. They love using the naturalistic fallacy. “In ____ times (somewhere in the past) girls started having babies as soon as they were able to.”

        Yes, you’re right of course! Mortality rates were so much better back then too. Why don’t we all, you too boys, go back to living like they did back then?

        1. But the age at which menarche took place was older back then too by many accounts. BTW, isn’t that the same argument used against gay marriage, historical precedent?

          1. Yes. With regards to female children being impregnated by adult males their argument is, “back in the day they did it so surely it’s not so bad.”

            With regards to gay marriage their argument is, “back in the day they’d a bin stoned to death so surely it would be bad to allow it now.”

            1. Babies have vaginas and erections, so does that mean we should be getting them to copulate?

              Or from the time a baby boy starts having erections til the time he starts producing sperm is ?12 years. So from the time a girl starts ovulating she should have c. 12 years preparation too?

              Perhaps we should wait until a woman’s hymen breaks naturally before she has sex?

              No-one takes these arguments seriously, but the bleed/breed one they do because it suits their screwed up mentality.

    3. I haven’t heard that abhorrent slogan, but it strikes me as the dark side of what previously looked like a harmless quirk of psychology – the finding (I think I read it in Kahneman’s book) that proverbs sound more profound and convincing when they rhyme.

      As I say, this sounded harmless to me – until now.

      1. I have a particular loathing for rhyming slogans of all types and the smug, self-satisfied, pseudo-clever mentality that gives rise to them.

  2. We had a similar case in northern Mexico a few years ago. A 14 year old girl became pregnant after she was raped during a robbery to her house. She was actually authorized by a judge to have an abortion, but the local hospital refused to carry out the procedure, and local government officials (belonging to the conservative party) and the local priest pressured her and her family into giving up having the abortion. What worries me about the Paraguay case is the the pregnancy is already on the fifth month.

  3. I signed the petition albeit reluctantly. Not because I don’t support the effort but because many of these on line petitions are really an effort to get your name and email in order to solicit funds. It LOOKS like you can avoid this should you wish to do so so I hope that is true. I also realize that pressure from other countries here probably isn’t worth much but this is such a terrible story I hope it works out OK.

    No news on what the scumbag step dad is seeing as consequences either. Anybody know?

    1. I sign these on-line petitions from time to time. I’ve never been hassled because of them. They do seem to take note of the type of petitions you sign, as a couple of times I’ve had petition links e-mailed to me because I supported a particular petition. However, I think they were from the same group who did the previous petition, so I don’t think my e-mail was being shared.

  4. This reminds me of the tragedy in Brasil in 2009. A Brazilian girl of nine years old was raped and became pregnant of a twin. She had an abortion in a hospital that was threatened with legal consequences by the catholic church. The doctors who performed the abortion were excommunicated. The rapist stepfather was not.

    full information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Brazilian_girl_abortion_case

      1. Yes. But politicians and the public condemned the catholic church. I guess that’s a small glimmer of light in a pitch-dark story.

    1. The good news in that story is that the hospital and the doctors weren’t intimidated and went ahead.

  5. We still have to say that no female, especially a child, should be made to carry a child to term. This shouldn’t even be an issue as anyone whom chooses to be sexually active should have access to birth control and, of course, 10 yo girls can’t actually consent being sexually active at all. So, knowing that she’s a victim, she should’ve been given Mifiprex. This is absolutely the ugliest, meanest and most unfair manner in which religion destroys lives.

  6. Just in case anyone was wondering, the legal marriageable age for girls in Paraguay is 16 and the age of consent is 12. That does not, of course, make the stepfather’s crime any less terrible or tragic, but it does mean that in Paraguay there are a lot of young women we in the US and other western countries would consider children who are facing a similar situation.

  7. In the absence of figures for the total numbers of adolescent childbirths and abortions, the Paraguayan health ministry’s numbers of 28 deaths for the former and 14 for the latter are about as meaningful as Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4.”

    Now this poor child is to be put through trauma by her Paraguayan “Big Brother” as bad, worse even, than that inflicted upon her by her no-good, execrable stepfather…because, why? Because the Good Lord keeps souls stacked up like cordwood inside the Pearly Gates and issues them to zygotes like a quartermaster handing out helmets to new recruits?

    Good goddamned grief!

  8. Thanks for this! Stupidly, I didn’t think to check for petitions in this awful matter. Now personified for effect, and signed. (I think, there is no receipt coming back. Oh, well, I tried.)

  9. Raped by the stepfather, raped by the church of no hope.. If you weren’t miserable, lost, fearful before, Catholicism can help.
    I totally agree, this post would be history if secular societies prevailed.

  10. Signed the petition. I can’t imagine what a poor child like that is going through when something this terrible happens. She’s simply too young for all that.

  11. This echoes, in full, the barbarity of the Spanish Inquisition.
    They are still a viscous torturous institution.

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