Thanks to Greg Weeks for pointing me to a story today in Reuters about the consequences of anti-abortion laws in predominantly Catholic South America. The story is timed, of course, to coincide with the Pope's visit back to his region of origin and it focuses on an especially egregious situation in Paraguay, where the Pope will be tomorrow:
Pope Francis last year called abortion "horrific." But for the mother of a Paraguayan girl, so too was the rape of her then 10-year-old daughter, who was denied a termination of her pregnancy by doctors and judicial officials.
Every day, two girls aged between 10 and 14 give birth in Paraguay, a landlocked South American country where one in five people live in poverty. Often there is a direct link to sexual violence.
"My daughter told me there was nothing wrong, but no doubt because she was terrified, because he threatened her," sobbed the girl's mother, who cannot be identified in order to protect her daughter, now more than seven months pregnant. The former partner of the girl's mother is accused of the rape.I know that there are people in the US who would like similar laws in this country, but personally I cannot imagine the mean-spiritedness (and, in my opinion, completely un-Christian point of view) of an adult who would condemn a child to becoming a mother--and to the child of her rapist to boot! These kinds of laws, accompanied by widespread lack of access to contraceptives among young women, help to explain the high rate of teenage pregnancy throughout Latin America. As I recently noted, the availability of contraceptives brings down the teen birth rate and dramatically lowers the demand for abortion, but you still need to have abortion available to rape victims and others for whom contraception was not available or did not work. That's just how the world should work.
Paraguayan law permits abortion if a mother's life is endangered. In this instance, a panel including medical doctors, psychologists and judicial officials determined that the life of the girl, now 11 and less than five-foot tall, was not at harm.