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11-year-old rape victim denied abortion gives birth in Paraguay

Story highlights

  • Baby girl was delivered by cesarean and weighs about 6.6 pounds
  • The girl was 10 years old and 22 weeks pregnant when the story first broke
  • Her 42-year-old stepfather is accused of raping the girl; he demanded a DNA test to prove his innocence

(CNN)An 11-year-old girl denied an abortion after allegedly being raped by her stepfather has given birth to a healthy baby girl in Asunción, Paraguay, where a fierce debate is brewing over a law banning most abortions.

Thursday's birth was confirmed by Asunción Red Cross Director Mario Villalba.
    In the mostly Catholic country, 684 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 gave birth last year. Most of the minors had been victims of sexual abuse, according to government figures. A Paraguayan law bans abortions except in cases where the pregnancy endangers the mother's life.
    The baby was born by cesarean and weighed 3 kilograms (about 6.6 pounds). Villalba said the baby and her mother "are in good health condition." He also said doctors are monitoring them closely. They are expected to be released within three days if no complications arise.
    The case shocked Paraguayans when it came to light in May. At the time the girl was 10 years old and 22 weeks pregnant. Authorities immediately arrested the girl's mother. The woman, who according to reports is 32 years old, was charged with child neglect and complicity.
    Police arrested the girl's stepfather, identified as 42-year-old Gilberto Benitez Zárate. Benitez was charged with rape and abuse of a child. He denied the charges and demanded a DNA test to back up his claim.
    The girl's mother was released on bond in June, but still faces charges. Once out of jail, she told CNN that she went to authorities asking for help in November 2013.
    "I was the one who reported all of this, asking for justice to be done and hoping that something would be done, but prosecutors dismissed the case," she said in an exclusive interview with CNN en Español on June 25. "Otherwise, this would have never gotten to this point," the unidentified mother said.
    Paraguayan Health Minister Antonio Barrios told CNN earlier that neighbors were the ones who had reported the abuse, and that the mother had denied accusations against her husband.
    The pregnancy was discovered in late April when the mother took her daughter to the hospital after the girl complained of abdominal pain.
    The mother wanted the girl to have an abortion. Human rights groups, especially Amnesty International, supported her position.
    "The physical and psychological impact of forcing this young girl to continue with an unwanted pregnancy is tantamount to torture," Guadalupe Marengo, deputy director for the Americas at Amnesty International said then. "The Paraguayan authorities cannot sit idly by while this young rape survivor is forced to endure more agony and torment."
    But Paraguayan authorities refused. Health minister Antonio Barrios said that, even in this case, an abortion would be a violation of Paraguayan law.
    "We're totally against interrupting the pregnancy," Barrios said in May. "The girl is getting assistance permanently in a shelter and the pregnancy is progressing normally without a problem." There was no comment from the Paraguayan government Thursday regarding the birth.
    Erika Guevara, Amnesty's Americas director, said Thursday that the fact that the girl did not die "does not excuse the human rights violations she suffered at the hands of the Paraguayan authorities, who decided to gamble with her health, life and integrity despite overwhelming evidence that this pregnancy was extremely risky and despite the fact that she was a rape victim and a child."
    Paraguay has one of the strictest abortion laws in the world. It bans abortions except in cases where the pregnancy endangers the mother's life. In the case of the 11-year-old, doctors ruled that, in spite of her age, the pregnancy did not endanger her life. Violation of the law carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
    According to a 2013 United Nations report, 2 million girls under age 14 give birth in developing countries every year, many of whom suffer resulting long-term or fatal health problems. It estimated that 70,000 adolescents die each year from complications from pregnancy or childbirth.