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"Girls not mothers" by Reuters
"Girls not mothers" by Reuters
World News

Catholic church intervention to stop an 11-year-old’s abortion after being raped sparks outrage in Bolivia

by Reuters Journalist

Feminist groups in Bolivia demonstrated on Friday against the Catholic church's intervening in an already authorised abortion for an 11-year-old girl, who was a victim of sexual abuse.

Screaming "girls, not mothers," "child pregnancy is torture," dozens of activists marched in La Paz demanding the minor be allowed to interrupt her pregnancy protected by Bolivian law.

The girl was victim of sexual abuse, and her family requested for an abortion when the pregnancy was discovered after 21 weeks.

As she was in hospital, the Catholic church interfered. Religious groups contacted the minor's mother and persuaded her not to continue with the interruption of the pregnancy.

After that, the mother removed her daughter from the hospital.

In a statement, Bolivia’s Bishops’ Conference urged “authorities to respect and protect the right to live and the right to be healthy of both the girl, who is a victim of rape, and the unborn baby. Both lives should and ought to be protected.”

“Since both her mom and the girl decided to continue with the pregnancy taking into consideration both the girl’s and baby’s health, other options should be sought, such as an adoption, since the girl is predictably not mature enough yet to take on taking care of the baby. 

"We remind everyone that no one can be forced to perform abortions, not even in the face of serious sexual violence, because abortion in Bolivia is a crime, even under grounds of impunity, and no one, not even health personnel, can be forced to commit this crime. We call for the need to define mechanisms that respect the human right to conscientious objection. 

"May the God of life, who gave life and wanted his son to be born of a woman, Mary, help us to protect, care for and respect all life," the statement concludes. 

A constitutional ruling from 2014 in Bolivia established abortion is legal in cases of rape, incest, or if the life or health of the pregnant person is in danger.

"We respect religious beliefs, but they can't be involved in deciding on a girl who, as in many others, has not agreed to have consensual sexual relations." said Bolivian presidency minister Marianela Prada.

The United Nations has released a statement urging the Bolivian authorities to safeguard the minor's life and saying that continuing with the pregnancy could be considered a form of torture.

Additional reporting by Kelly Valencia 

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