Sunday, July 30, 2006

Rape Victim Abortion Case Polarizes Argentina

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) - An abortion case involving a mentally disabled rape victim has polarized Argentina, setting the government against courts in a Roman Catholic nation where terminating pregnancy is mostly illegal.

A top provincial court will decide within a few days whether to allow a mentally impaired 19 year old, four months pregnant, to have an abortion. Both Argentina's health minister and its most powerful governor back her family's plea.

Argentine law bans abortions except when a woman's life is in danger or a "demented" woman is raped.

Two lower tribunals have denied the request, arguing in part the constitutional mandate to protect children's rights trumps criminal law. One judge also cited the influence of her own religious convictions, according to local media.

"I am very disturbed by these rulings because this is a typical case, which is totally legal under criminal law," Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia, a proponent of loosening restrictions on abortion, told local radio,

"This girl has a mental disability, she was raped, her parents are asking for the abortion. It is incredible that the courts are going in circles on this and giving abstract arguments," Gonzalez Garcia said. "This is making a tragedy all the more tragic."

Abortion is illegal in much of Latin America, home to half the world's Catholics. In Argentina alone, between 500,000 and 700,000 clandestine abortions are practiced each year, the minister said.

Buenos Aires Gov. Felipe Sola was quoted by Clarin newspaper as saying: "We are not in a theocracy. It is within this disabled rape victim's rights to abort."

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