To make a 10-year-old give birth isn’t just horrifying – it’s life threatening
A child raped by her stepfather risks being violated all over again.
Would anyone in their right mind think it reasonable that a 10-year-old carry a pregnancy to term? This is not a thought experiment but the horrible story of a real child in Paraguay: raped by her stepfather and now denied an abortion.
According to Amnesty International – which is leading the charge to obtain an abortion for the child – the young girl’s condition became public when she went to the hospital complaining of stomach pain and was found to be 21 weeks pregnant.
“The physical and psychological impact of forcing this young girl to continue with an unwanted pregnancy is tantamount to torture”, Guadalupe Marengo, Americas Deputy Director at Amnesty International said in a statement. (In fact, the United Nations has declared lack of access to abortion at any age a form of torture.)
Paraguay has very strict laws on abortion – the procedure is only permitted when a person’s life is at risk. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.
Antonio Barrios, the Health Minister of Paraguay, said: “there is no indication that the health of the [girl] is at risk … therefore we are not, from any point of view, in favor of the termination of the pregnancy”.
There are so many levels of horror here it’s hard to know where to begin but this, perhaps, is the most baffling: in what universe is a 10-year-old delivering a child not a risk to her life?
Childbirth is a risky enterprise for a healthy grown woman – a woman of reproductive age in Paraguay for example, has a one in 310 chance of dying from from complications from labor. For a child, the risks are exponentially worse.
Children’s bodies are not meant to give birth. Dr Dalia Brahmi, the Director of Clinical Affairs at Ipas told me: “It is cruel to force a 10-year-old girl to carry her pregnancy to term”.
Dr Brahmi, who once worked at the World Health Organization in the Department of Reproductive Health and Research, told me: “very young adolescents [under 15 years old] have a high risk of eclampsia, infection, preterm birth and intrauterine growth restriction” compared to adult women.
The dangers are clear – and it takes a whole lot of magical thinking or straight up denial to think otherwise. Pregnancy for a child risks not only her emotional and mental health, but her physical health and possibly even her life.
Paraguay’s decision to remain the course has nothing to do with the actual risk to the child involved, but is all about their adherence to an antiquated, tortuous law that would rather see a child’s life at risk than admit their anti-abortion policies are too strict.
If those who would see this young girl give birth are truly pro-life, whose life are they concerned about? Because it’s certainly not the ten-year-old at the center of this story who is being forced to carry her rapist’s baby to term.
This anonymous young girl – this child – has already been violated by a member of her family. Must she be violated by her country as well