A pregnant 11-year-old girl in Argentina was forced to have a cesarean section after she and her family had been requesting an abortion for weeks, a human rights group said.
Last month, the girl and her mother asked medics in the northern province of Tucumán for an abortion after confirming that she was pregnant, local rights group ANDHES said.
The group said the girl’s pregnancy continued for weeks before local authorities approved the procedure. A judge consulting on the case said this week that the girl could receive an abortion, CNN affiliate TN reported.
But local health officials said the girl’s mother initially indicated she would take care of the baby after birth and only made an official request for an abortion this week.
The health department found a doctor who would do the procedure, but he determined an abortion could potentially risk her life because she was 23 weeks’ pregnant.
An abortion “would subject her to a new torture,” José Gijena, the physician who tended to the girl, told CNN en Español. Gijena had to perform a micro C-section.
The girl’s baby is hospitalized but has a low chance of survival, CNN affiliate TN reported.
Rossana Chahla, the health minister of Tucumán, said the abortion had only been requested Monday, state-run news agency Télam reported.
“I want to tell you and inform you that the health care system never obstructed, nor delayed the abortion,” Chahla told reporters.
In the past weeks, health officials also questioned whether the girl’s mother could request her daughter’s abortion, since she lived with her grandmother and asked a family court to weigh in, TN reported.
Abortion is illegal in Argentina, but current laws allow the procedure in cases of rape or when the mother’s health is at risk. Women who otherwise get abortions can be imprisoned for as long as four years.
The girl had been sexually assaulted by her grandmother’s partner, Télam reported.
After the judge granted permission for the girl’s abortion Tuesday, she was supposed to undergo the procedure at Eva Perón Hospital. But the medical staff there refused to perform the abortion, exercising its right to conscientious objection of the procedure.
Abortion rights activists in Argentina have said that even legal abortions are difficult to obtain because physicians are often hesitant to perform them.
Fernanda Marchese, executive director of ANDHES, criticized authorities for the delay in the approval of the abortion. She said it violated the girl’s rights.
“We should have never gotten here,” Marchese said. “The law is clear in that sense.”
The girl’s case has sparked outrage among human rights groups and abortion rights activists in Argentina.
In a statement, the country’s National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion said that forcing girls to go through a pregnancy and give birth was torture.
Amnesty International condemned the lack of action by health officials to end the girl’s pregnancy.
“The unwarranted delay to a legal abortion violated the girl’s right to health, her autonomy, privacy and intimacy, revictimizing her,” the group’s Argentina office tweeted.
Abortion has been at the center of a contentious debate in the Latin American country for years. Argentina’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortions in cases of rape in 2012. Last year, thousands of people flooded the streets as lawmakers debated legislation that would legalize elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The bill was rejected by a narrow margin.
Only three countries in Latin America – – have broadly legalized abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank focused on reproductive rights.
CNN en Español’s Badiha Sebih contributed to this report.