(PRESS RELEASE) After global outcry over the case of a 10-year-old rape survivor who was unable to access a medically necessary abortion in Paraguay, this week the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)—one of the main human rights body for the Americas—has ordered the Paraguayan government to allow the young girl to get needed medical attention.
On May 20, 2015, Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de las Mujeres and Equality Now filed a request for precautionary measures—formally asking the IACHR to intervene in the young girl’s case.
In Paraguay, abortion is only legal when the pregnant woman’s life is in immediate danger. The Center for Reproductive Rights launched an online petition urging the government to protect the health of the young girl and allow doctors to give her the necessary care.
Said Lilian Sepúlveda, vice president of the Global Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The government of Paraguay has disregarded the outcry of voices around the world calling for potentially life-saving care for this young rape survivor. It must not ignore the orders of the Inter-American Commission.
“Denying a young girl essential medical care is nothing short of cruel and inhumane treatment, and a gross violation of her fundamental human rights.
“The government must allow doctors to do their job and provide immediate care to this young rape survivor. And to protect the health and well-being of all women and girls in Paraguay, it must expand access to the full range of reproductive health services, including safe and legal abortion care.”
On April 23, 2015, a mother brought her young daughter, who was complaining of stomach pains, to a local hospital in Paraguay. After doctors conducted tests, they determined she was 21 weeks pregnant and that if she continued with the pregnancy it would put her health at serious risk. The doctors requested permission from the government to perform an abortion but the Ministry of Health claimed that her life was not in danger and denied the girl much needed care.
On May 12, 2015, a medical board consisting of doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists conducted another thorough examination of the young girl and determined that if she continued with the pregnancy she ran the risk of postpartum hemorrhaging, a high risk of endometrial infection and a slew of other systematic risks to her not fully developed reproductive health system.
After receiving the precautionary measures request, the IACHR asked for more information from the government, the medical experts, the attorneys and the young girl’s mother. In its response to the case of the young girl, the IACHR determined that the young girl’s rights to life and personal integrity, as well as mental and physical health have been put at grave risk by the Paraguay government denying her a safe and legal abortion. The IACHR has ordered Paraguay to allow the young girl to get the adequate medical care she needs and to adopt all the necessary measures so that the girl’s human rights are respected. The government of Paraguay has to respond to the IACHR measures by June 11.
According to a 2014 report published by the Center, 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to safe and legal abortion services in the last 20 years—a trend that has marked incredible progress toward improving women’s rights and lives, including significantly reducing rates of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion. The report was released alongside the Center’s updated World’s Abortion Laws map—one of the most comprehensive resources on abortion laws across the globe.