A judge in Brazil has banned abortion for an 11-year-old girl who became pregnant after being raped, prompting widespread outrage.
The move, which came to light Monday, has put the judge, Joana Ribeiro Zimmer, under investigation by the country’s Court of Justice.
The young girl was raped earlier this year, and after it was determined that she was pregnant, she was taken to a hospital in Florianopolis, the capital of southern Brazil’s Santa Catarina state.
There are no other details regarding the rape, other than it reportedly took place in the family home.
The girl, accompanied by her mother, was seen by Dr. Polydoro Ernani de Sao Thiago, who is affiliated with the University of Santa Catarina.
He allegedly refused to perform an abortion on her after determining that she was more than 22 weeks pregnant, with the hospital’s in-house rules stating that they could only perform an abortion on someone up to 20 weeks and that they needed a court order.
The case was referred to the judge, who reportedly refused to grant the 11-year-old rape victim permission to have the abortion. She reportedly said that if she had granted the girl an abortion, she would not have been “protecting the daughter,” and would instead have been “subjecting her to a homicide.”
The girl was reportedly kept in a shelter for women to protect her from her aggressor, with her distraught mother reportedly saying that if she had not been taken to the shelter, she would have performed the abortion on her daughter herself.
While abortion is largely illegal in Brazil, with pregnant women who have abortions risking one to three years in prison and doctors who perform them risking up to four years behind bars, they are legal in cases of rape or when the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother.
The Court of Justice of Santa Catarina has since said that its Internal Affairs Office is now looking into Judge Joana Ribeiro Zimmer for allegedly stopping the 11-year-old from having a legal abortion.
The case has attracted widespread criticism in the largely Catholic country, with experts quoted in local media as saying that there is no legal basis for the situation, neither regarding the stance that the hospital adopted, nor for the judge’s decision.
The court said in a statement that they had “initiated a request for measures in the administrative sphere for the proper investigation of the facts.”
The IPAS organization, which campaigns for abortion and contraception worldwide, says: “Because Brazilian law only permits abortion in cases of rape, fetal anencephaly, or risk to life, in 2012 the country’s Ministry of Health reported only 1,626 legal abortions in a nation with 203 million people.
“However, an estimated one million Brazilian women have abortions every year. Many of those women, particularly those without the financial or social resources to see a well-trained, willing provider, run a huge legal risk when they decide to end an unwanted pregnancy.
“The physical consequences can also be devastating.”
The case is ongoing.
Last week, the premature baby of a 12-year-old Bolivian girl who was allegedly raped by her grandfather died after the girl was denied an abortion.
Under Bolivian law, abortion is legal for rape and incest victims, but the procedure can only be undertaken up to the 22nd week of pregnancy.
The pregnant girl had begged to be allowed to terminate the pregnancy, but she had been told she was too late.
Medics at the German Urquidi Maternal and Child Hospital in Cochabamba had denied her pleas because she was six months pregnant at the time.
The hospital’s refusal to terminate the young girl’s pregnancy was controversial in Bolivia, with abortion campaigners calling for reform of the country’s abortion laws.
The infant was delivered by C-section in the 29th week of the pregnancy. The premature newborn’s health was delicate and it was placed in an incubator but died.
The girl was reportedly raped by her grandfather in Senda F, in the municipality of Chimore, and it is said that the elderly man, a farmer, allegedly raped his granddaughter many times before she became pregnant.
He is now being held in pre-trial custody at San Pedro de Sacaba prison.
The name of the alleged perpetrator was not given in local reports.