The 10-year-old – call her X – from Luque, a town in Paraguay, had been raped repeatedly by her stepfather in the single room she and her mother also share with two other siblings. But her 21-week pregnancy was only discovered when she presented at hospital last week with a pain in her stomach.
Her case has hit international headlines and enraged human rights organisations because the authorities, who had ignored her mother’s earlier warnings that X was being abused, then refused her request for an abortion for her daughter, insisting that the pregnancy was not a threat to X’s life and therefore not permitted in Paraguayan law. Grotesquely, X’s mother has now been taken into custody facing charges of breaching her duty of care and of being an accomplice to sexual abuse
"Right now, there is no reason to interrupt the pregnancy," Lida Sosa, director of healthcare programmes at the ministry of public health and wellness, told the Guardian. X, who is under 31 kg weight, Sosa says " has no complications at all". International statistics, however, suggest mothers under 15 are five times more likely to die from complications in pregnancy than adult women. But the official position remains that, like Savita Halappanavar, nothing more will be done for the child until, and only if, the pregnancy actually threatens her life.
Paraguay has strict abortion laws, without legal exceptions like Ireland’s threat to “health as opposed to life”, or exceptions for rape, incest, or fatal foetal abnormality – which polls show in this country would have strong majority support. Punishment for illegal abortions, put by the UN at over 30,000 a year in Paraguay, can land a doctor or a woman in jail for more than two years.
According to doctors and the Centre for Reproductive Rights, a US pro-choice organisation which is preparing to sue the Paraguayan government on X's behalf, delivering a child could result in "permanent damage" to X, not to mention traumatic psychological issues. Amnesty International says her treatment is "tantamount to torture".