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Paraguay government refuses to grant abortion to 10-year-old rape victim

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine, Cosmopolitan.com,...

A 10-year-old girl who became pregnant after rape is denied abortion

The government of Paraguay is currently facing a backlash of protest after it denied an abortion to a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant because of a rape. The entire situation is absolutely horrific. The young girl was sexually assaulted by her stepfather and is now being forced to carry out the pregnancy that resulted from her rape, despite pleas otherwise from her mother and medical experts.

The country of Paraguay prohibits all abortion unless the life of the mother is at stake. In this case, a special panel has been convened by the government to review the issue. However, the country's health minister has already said the girl was deemed healthy enough to continue the pregnancy and did not need an abortion to save her life.

In response to all this, the United Nations issued a statement condemning the government of Paraguay, saying it "has failed in its responsibility to protect a 10-year-old sexual abuse survivor and provide her with critical and timely treatments, including a 'safe and therapeutic' abortion." The U.N. statement also notes that according to the World Health Organization, child pregnancies are in fact very dangerous and can lead to either complications or even death, as girls' bodies are "not fully developed to carry a pregnancy."

Unfortunately the government doesn't seem to be listening. Instead, there is a young girl who is now five months pregnant with little support, as her mother and stepfather (rightfully) are in jail. While — as the panel points out — the girl is physically capable of carrying a pregnancy out to term, there is absolutely no reason she should be forced to. She has already suffered enough, and to continue this pregnancy does not seem to be in the best interest of anyone.

This child is not only having a pregnancy forced upon her, but she is having a life stripped from her, as there will most likely be no support for her to continue an education, and there will more than likely be lasting emotional and mental health effects from being made to carry the pregnancy to term. Those who claim they are "pro-life" in this instance are completely ignoring the life of a child who is already here and living versus the potential of life that is the product of rape. This case is the ultimate definition of necessitating a "safe and therapeutic" abortion, and it is reprehensible that the government of Paraguay is denying this child one.

Authorities have already failed this child once. According to the U.N.'s post, the child's mother had reported the ongoing sexual abuse back in 2014, but no action was taken. So not only did the proper authorities fail to step in to stop the sexual abuse in the first place, but they refuse to protect the young girl now by terminating this pregnancy. Even the committee they've gathered to evaluate the case will most likely do nothing, as the girl is now 22 weeks pregnant. For reference, many states in the U.S. have a 20-week cutoff for abortions. It remains to be seen if the committee will reverse the ruling, but for now, this young girl is suffering more than she has to.

More on kids and sexual abuse

Talking to your kids about sexual abuse
Sexual harassment in schools
The time to address your childhood sexual abuse is now

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