BUENOS AIRES: A court in Argentina ruled Friday that a 14-year old rape victim could have an abortion, overturning a lower court decision barring the girl from seeking the procedure which had triggered outrage.
The teenage girl discovered early last month that she was pregnant after being raped by her mother’s partner.
The teen and her mother, who live in the city of Salta, one of the most conservative in Argentina, sought an abortion at an area hospital.
But a family court judge in a December 17 ruling denied her petition to terminate her pregnancy, instead ordering the girl to give birth and surrender the baby for adoption.
The lower court decision had provoked an outcry by women’s groups which maintained that the judge had exceeded his authority.
Judge Victor Soria ruled that the right to life of the unborn child trumped the rights of the teen—but Salta’s Supreme Court on Friday overturned that decision.
Abortion for the most part is illegal in Argentina. But there are exceptions, including in the case of rape, or when the life of the mother is at risk.
A federal Supreme Court last year issued a ruling that rape victims could not be punished for terminating a pregnancy, and no longer would need a court’s permission to get an abortion.
The court ruled that a woman’s sworn statement at the doctor’s office that she had been impregnated following a sexual assault would be sufficient.
But the high court ruling has not always been observed, with some conservative localities—like Salta, located some 1500 km (932 miles) from Buenos Aires—still requiring that rape victims seek court permission for an abortion, and in some cases refusing to grant it.
Abortion rights groups have been outraged by the girl’s case.
“When it comes to a woman’s body and her authority over her own body, what we have is a male-dominated, patriarchal majority in society and the Catholic Church,” said Mabel Gabarra, with the national campain for free and legal abortion.
Though Argentina has its first woman elected president, Cristina Kirchner—and has been progressive in social policies such as legal same-sex marriage and transgender rights recognition—abortion is still a social taboo.