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Argentine 11-year-old's C-section sparks new abortion debate

At 23 weeks, doctors deemed the 11-year-old girl to be in danger but instead of an abortion, they performed a caesarean section, and they say the five-month-old fetus has almost no chance of surviving
At 23 weeks, doctors deemed the 11-year-old girl to be in danger but instead of an abortion, they performed a caesarean section, and they say the five-month-old fetus has almost no chance of surviving AFP/File
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Buenos Aires (AFP)

A cesarean section carried out on an 11-year-old girl raped by her grandmother's husband has reopened the debate about abortion in Argentina, where rules on pregnancy terminations are strict.

"I want you to take out of my tummy what the old man put there," the girl had said in a complaint lodged with authorities in the northern province of Tucuman.

She and her mother then submitted an abortion request.

That procedure took seven weeks, though, as doctors invoked their right to conscientious objection.

Argentine authorities often drag their feet in such cases until the legal window for an abortion has passed.

At 23 weeks, doctors deemed the girl to be in danger but instead of an abortion, they performed a caesarean section.

"The child's wishes should have been taken into account. There were two reasons for the abortion," said the family's lawyer, Cecilia De Bono.

Argentine law allows for pregnancy terminations in extreme cases, such as rape or when the mother's life is in danger.

"Vaginally, it wasn't possible. Her body wasn't sufficiently developed for a 23 week pregnancy, and even if it had been, she wasn't psychologically ready given the many abuses she'd suffered," said gynecologist Cecilia Ousset, who took part in the intervention at the Eva Peron hospital in Tucuman.

The five-month-old fetus was extracted alive but doctors say it has almost no chance of surviving.

"The State is responsible for torturing Lucia," said #NiUnaMenos, which means 'not one less,' one of the feminist organizations leading the campaign to legalize abortion.

The Tucuman local government justified its actions, claiming to have put in place "the procedures necessary to save both lives."

Last year, a bill to legalize abortion up to 14 weeks was adopted by the chamber of deputies but defeated in the senate, under strong pressure from the church.

In Argentina, the home of Pope Francis, the question of abortion is a hugely divisive topic that inspires equally passionate debate from both sides of the argument.

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