Anti-abortion extremism in Paraguay
Right now in Paraguay, we are seeing the dangers of extremist abortion laws play out in real time. An 11-year-old girl, allegedly sexually assaulted by her stepfather, is entering her third trimester of pregnancy. Paraguay’s government has denied her an abortion, even though she has requested one. Because of her small frame, carrying the pregnancy to term and delivering could put the girl at risk of terrible injury or even death. Her lawyer has reported that labor will be induced soon, and the pregnancy delivered prematurely, but the authorities in Paraguay are being very secretive about her status and whereabouts. The case has caused international outcry among women’s health and human rights advocates.
It’s hard to imagine a case more dire. A young child, who has already experienced rape, is now being forced to carry a pregnancy, against her will and at great cost to her health. But extremist opponents to abortion care in 66 countries have instituted outright bans on abortion or laws which allow it only to save a woman’s life. Meanwhile in the United States, increasingly harsh restrictions are proposed every day, including ones that disproportionately burden young people. In 38 states a young woman under 18 must involve her parents in abortion decisions. Those who would be in danger if they told their parents have to make their case to a judge – which some states are making even harder. In Alabama a lawyer can be appointed for the fetus. In Texas a judge can simply ignore the judicial bypass request and experts believe that means it is then denied. These restrictions place a burden on young women and put their health at risk.
One in three women will need abortion care in her lifetime. We need to listen to their stories and remove the stigma and shame women are made to feel about abortion. In the United States and around the world, we need to reverse laws which endanger women’s lives and which put politics above our health.
In Paraguay, the girl’s future is unclear, especially since her parents stand accused of abuse and neglect. She has been victimized many times over, and like girl children around the world, denied health, safety, and opportunity. We must put an end to these abuses. Young people have the right to access the full range of reproductive and sexual health services they need. That right includes the ability to access reproductive and sexual health services confidentially and with dignity.