- Title: ARGENTINA: Supreme Court rules abortion is legal for all rape victims
- Date: 15th March 2012
- Summary: BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (MARCH 13, 2012) (REUTERS) EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR THE CENTRE OF LEGAL AND SOCIAL STUDIES GASTON CHILLIER IN HIS OFFICE (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR THE CENTRE OF LEGAL AND SOCIAL STUDIES GASTON CHILLIER SAYING: "Now, there is no room for doubt for judicial authorities nor for public health care workers - like there was a few months ago with a similar case that was disputed here or like the one that happened in the province of Entre Rios. The person who wants to abort has the right (to do so), and that right should be carried out by hospitals and the person who is having the abortion nor the doctor performing the abortion will be legally persecuted."
- Embargoed: 30th March 2012 13:00
- Location: Argentina, Argentina
- Country: Argentina
- Topics: Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAP3IRQ8CR288I380KFFY9UH4N
- Story Text: Abortion is legal for all rape victims in Argentina, the country's Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday (March 13), clarifying a 1922 law interpreted as applying only to mentally impaired women.
Abortion is banned in much of Latin America, home to about half the world's Roman Catholics. Some countries allow abortion in the case of rape, but only Cuba and Guyana have fully legalized the procedure.
In Argentina, legal wrangling over which abortions are legal has delayed operations for weeks or months and has even put women's health at risk in some cases, the Supreme Court said.
"This ruling is truly very important because it sets jurisprudence in regards to closing a chapter of strong debate in relation to how actual exceptions are interpreted in regards to non-penible abortions in Argentina. For years, women have found themselves in many cases - when they are victims of rape, for example - with institutions that delayed in giving them an immediate response to interrupting a pregnancy, re-victimizing them with obstacles in front of a medical practice that is permitted," Estela Diaz in charge of union gender issues for the Central Workers Union told Reuters Television.
"The decision clearly states how to proceed because it does not judicialise how this should be resolved in medical terms and in reality, what is illegal is not abiding by the law," she added.
Tuesday's ruling related to the case of a 15-year-old girl who was raped by her stepfather and sought relief under the law, which allows abortions "if the pregnancy results from a rape or an attack on the modesty of a demented or idiot woman."
The Supreme Court unanimously upheld a provincial tribunal's decision to grant the abortion. Although the girl had undergone the procedure already, the high court justices opted to rule on the case to set precedence for the future.
"This puts an end to the uncertainty related to the scope (of the law) ... which in some courts had been understood to apply only to those rape victims who had some kind of mental disability," a press statement from the court said.
Gaston Chillier of the Centre for Legal and Social Studies said the court's decision protected the woman and the doctor.
"Now, there is no room for doubt for judicial authorities nor for public health care workers - like there was a few months ago with a similar case that was disputed here or like the one that happened in the province of Entre Rios. The person who wants to abort has the right (to do so), and that right should be carried out by hospitals and the person who is having the abortion nor the doctor performing the abortion will be legally persecuted," Chillier said.
The Supreme Court said doctors should not seek court approval to perform these abortions. All that is needed from the victims, or their legal representatives, is a sworn affidavit stating that the pregnancy resulted from rape.
Argentina's high court justices also urged judges not to intervene in these cases, saying this only creates obstacles.
"There is a widespread practice fomented by health workers and backed by some members of the national and provincial judiciary that has unduly restricted rape victims' access to a legal abortion," the high court said. "These victims cannot be kept from exercising this right."
Argentina allows gay marriage and has some of the most liberal social policies in the region. But debate on legalizing abortion has made little headway, in part due to the opposition of center-left President Cristina Fernandez.
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