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Mexican rape victim, 13, denied access to abortion

Saturday 24 September 2016, by siawi3


Girl in Sonora barred from terminating pregnancy after judge downgrades crime from rape to ‘sexual coercion’

Pro-choice activists in Mexico City
Pro-choice protesters in Mexico City. Abortion is allowed in Sonora only in the event of rape Photograph: Henry Romero/Reuters

Nina Lakhani

in Mexico City

Monday 1 August 2016 23.55 BST
Last modified on Tuesday 2 August 2016 16.05 BST

Health officials in northern Mexico have refused to authorize an abortion for a 13-year-old girl who was raped by a family acquaintance after a judge downgraded the crime to a charge of sexual coercion.

Abortion is banned in Sonora, apart from in cases of rape. But human rights advocates say the decision violates federal health regulations introduced earlier this year which guarantee rape victims unrestricted access to safe abortion services – regardless of where they live and whether the crime was reported or not.

The new regulation should supersede state restrictions, but it has left health providers uncertain about who to obey, according to Alex Ali, a lawyer for the Group for Information on Reproductive Choice (Gire) which is representing the victim. “The new regulation requires health services to provide abortions for any woman or girl who says she has been raped, without any other requirements. This has been enough to convince authorities in other states with the same criminal code, so why not in Sonora? It’s down to political will,” he said.

Mexico has the highest reported incidence of sexual abuse, violence and murder against children under 14 among the OECD countries. One in four girls is sexually assaulted before the age of 18, according to the latest survey by the Executive Commission of Attention to Victims (CEAV). In 2008 Mexico City became the first place in the country to allow women in their first trimester unobstructed access to abortion services. In response, Sonora was one of 16 states to immediately tighten restrictions on terminations.

Abortion banned by controversial Mexican state governor

Last week Veracruz’s controversial outgoing governor pushed through constitutional reform – promoted by the Catholic church – which effectively bans abortion in all circumstances by defining life as beginning at the moment of conception.

Abortion banned by controversial Mexican state governor
Duration Time 11:08

Abortion in Mexico: Catholics, the law and the right to choose
Abortion in Mexico: Catholics, the law and the right to choose

Since May 2015, Gire has represented 14 rape victims who were denied access to a safe abortion, including a 10-year-old girl in the state of Tabasco. In this latest case, the attack was reported to police just hours after it took place at the girl’s home on 2 May. She was not offered emergency contraception services, according to Gire.

Two weeks later the girl’s father was informed by investigators that the judge had classified the assault as “sexual coercion” rather than rape. The state health department has said it cannot authorize an abortion, as there was no rape.

Now, almost 12 weeks pregnant, the victim’s only option is to travel to Mexico City in order to obtain a safe, legal abortion, according to Gire. There are no time restrictions on abortion in cases of rape.

Globally, complications in pregnancy and childbirth are one of the leading causes of mortality in girls and teenagers, according to the World Health Organization.

Ali said: “This case reflects the systemic problem we have in Mexico, where various and diverse obstacles are put up to stop rape victims from accessing abortion. The federal government must assure that state health entities know they must guarantee women’s reproductive rights in these cases.”