An Argentine court ruled to grant an abortion to a mentally impaired rape victim, four months pregnant, in a case that has polarized this Roman Catholic country where the procedure is restricted.
Argentine law prohibits abortion except when a woman’s life is in danger or a “demented” woman is raped. But two lower courts denied this 19-year-old woman’s request, citing in part a constitutional mandate to protect children’s rights.
Both Argentina’s health minister and its most powerful governor publicly backed the abortion, while Catholic groups decried their support for a “culture of death.”
The top court in Buenos Aires province settled the matter late Monday, ruling that the exceptions allowed by law do not contradict the constitution and saying the courts should have never interfered, leading newspapers reported.
It was not clear if the case would be appealed to the nation’s Supreme Court.
Case stirs abortion debate
The case revived debates in Argentina about whether abortion should be banned entirely or legalized.
Activists who want the procedure decriminalized rallied outside the court last week, while a Catholic university rector publicly offered to adopt the rape victim’s child.
Between 500,000 and 700,000 clandestine abortions are practiced each year in Argentina, according to the health ministry.
Abortion is illegal in much of Latin America, home to half the world’s Catholics. Only Cuba and Guyana have fully legalized the procedure.
In Colombia, a top court decided in May that abortion was legal in cases of rape, life-threatening complications for the mother, and pregnancies in which the fetus is deformed. In response, the Catholic Church there threatened to excommunicate anyone involved in providing abortions.
In Uruguay, which has a strong secular streak, a bill legalizing the practice was passed by the lower house but defeated by the Senate in 2004. Congress is debating the matter again, but the president has vowed to veto any such measure.
In Brazil, the world’s largest Catholic country, the government sent a bill to Congress last year to legalize abortion but later distanced itself from the proposal.