Brazil: Raped girl, 11, has abortion after initial rejection

BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazilian prosecutors said Thursday a raped 11-year-old girl received a legal abortion after a judge barred her from terminating her pregnancy for weeks.

Federal prosecutors in the state of Santa Catarina said in a statement that following a formal request on behalf of the girl’s family, the Polydoro Ernani de São Thiago hospital took “measures to interrupt the pregnancy of the minors.”

The hospital said in a statement that it could not comment on the case because it is under the secrecy of the Brazilian judicial system.

Doctors had previously refused to perform the procedure because the child was 22 weeks pregnant.

Some abortion opponents argue that the Health Department’s recommendations call for the procedure to be limited to 20 to 22 weeks. But Daniela Félix, a lawyer for the child’s family, and other legal experts said Brazilian law mentions no limit in the case of rape victims or when a woman’s life is in danger.

The 11-year-old, who was 10 when she was raped, was in her 29th week when the abortion was finally performed on Wednesday night, amid outrage against Judge Joana Ribeiro Zimmer for her actions in the case.

Earlier this week, Brazil’s judiciary regulator said it was investigating Zimmer for asking the child at a taped hearing on May 9 if she understood how pregnancies work and suggesting the girl “hold on a little longer” to get the baby save fetus.

The girl repeatedly said that she did not want to give birth.

Brazilian law allows abortions in three cases: rape; danger to mother’s life; and cases of anencephaly, in which a fetus does not have a functioning brain.

The case has sparked a debate between supporters of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and those of left-wing ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Bolsonaro, who is running for re-election against da Silva, tweeted after news of the girl’s abortion broke: “Baby seven months pregnant.”

“We’re not discussing how it was designed, whether the law allows it or not. It is inadmissible to take the life of this defenseless being!” he wrote.

Da Silva said in April that anyone should be allowed to have an abortion, but within days he backed down and said he opposes abortions, although he believes women should have choices on public health grounds.

The case, reported by website The Intercept Brasil last week, prompted associations of judges and human rights groups to call for Zimmer’s removal from her post.

Zimmer said in a statement Wednesday that she “will not discuss portions of the hearing that have been illegally leaked.” She also said she will remain silent on the case “to ensure the child has due and full protection.”

The investigation into Zimmer’s methods will be conducted by the same court system in Santa Catarina, southern Brazil, and her decision will be referred to her own court in the southern Brazilian state, and then submitted to the national regulator for her final decision. ———

Savarese reported from Sao Paulo.