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9-Year-Old Girl's Abortion of Twins Spurs Conversation

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Illegal abortion is the fourth leading cause of maternal death in Brazil, and although policies have been eased in recent years (abortions are allowed in cases of rape, when the mother's life is in danger, and when the fetus has no possibility of survival).

Thousands of women continue to die from secret abortions. According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, approximately 5,000 women die and 800,000 are hospitalized every year from abortions in Brazil and the surrounding region. According to Brazil's Ministry of Health figures, 1 in 7 Brazilian young women, between the ages of 15 and 19, are a mothers.

Just last week, a 9-year-old girl was 15 weeks pregnant with twins and underwent an abortion, causing a fierce debate on the role of religion in the country's policies. Since the mother of the young girl authorized her abortion, the woman has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church and the doctors who performed the abortion were each excommunicated as well. Defending the church's stance, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho stated, God's law "is above any human law."

So, even though it was legal for the young girl to have an abortion because she was raped (allegedly by her stepfather), the church insisted on a tough line and penalized those who actually saved her life. Regardless of the circumstances, the Vatican considers excommunication a given for anyone who has undergone, or performed, an abortion.

I doubt the 80-pound girl would have survived a twin pregnancy to term. (Church advocates said that she should have carried the babies to term and had a C-section since her hips were too small to support a natural birth safely.) So why is it that the church considers her life worthless compared to the "two innocent persons," (as the twins were referred to by a local Cardinal), that she carried? Is she not innocent as well? It's as if the absolute horror of the physical pain and mental anguish inflicted upon her by her rapist means absolutely nothing as far as the Catholic Church is concerned.

And why has the stepfather not been excommunicated? Apparently, he has confessed to the crime.

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EmpowHER Guest

As a previous NICU nurse I can't even imagine seeing a 9 year old little girl go through such a thing. I am not necessarily pro abortion, but in this case I can't imagine that ANYONE would feel that this poor little girl who had been raped should carry a twin pregnancy to term. Even if they took the twins at 24 weeks, the chances of the babies surviving and thriving would be risky! When a mom is actually an adult there is a high risk for premature infants! Even if she could physically carry them for term, which is unlikely, how would she be psychologically afterwards??? I am Catholic, but the church can be so judgemental and black & white. I do not blame this mother at all. The church didn't condemn her step father, I sure hope that the court system felt otherwise.

March 30, 2011 - 6:05pm
EmpowHER Guest

I wonder how many living, breathing children have been molested and abused in Brazil by catholic clerics??

March 27, 2011 - 2:42pm
EmpowHER Guest

First of all, I'd just like to say this is absolutely disgusting and far from the first time the vatican has proved how utterly ridiculous their rules are.
This poor girl was raped by her stepfather of all people. Pain like that is unimaginable, and the church only makes it worse. Expecting her to carry TWINS to term?! She's nine years old, a poor innocent CHILD. Regardless of whether or not carrying the twins to term is possible, it's not right. Imagine the damage to her little body. You have to ask yourself, what is more important: A pair of unborn children who cannot even think or breathe, or a living, breathing, innocent 9-year-old girl?
And then, even more horribly, she and her mother are excommunicated but don't worry, the man who raped her isn't. Raping his 9-year-old stepdaughter isn't really a big deal, anyway.
This is why I have a problem with the church.
What would you do if you were her mother?

December 14, 2009 - 12:30pm

Well, in this case, representatives of the Church stated that they felt the little girl should have carried the twins to term and then had a C-section. The issue was the fact that her uterus was too small to support a pregnancy, much less a multiple pregnancy, and she could very well have died if allowed to remain pregnant. The Church didn't see it that way, and put more of an emphasis on the "innocent" twins than on the 9-year-old girl -- in fact, did not seem to value her life at all.

March 17, 2009 - 10:43am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Kristin Davis)

Actually, the Church's position would be that the three lives (the two twins' and the young girl's) are all of equal worth, and that it is always wrong to murder so that another may live. The end of saving a person's life does not justify the means.

If you accept the unborn children as full human beings, the logic becomes clear instantly: I suspect most reasonable people would condemn a Siamese twin who murdered her twin sister even if otherwise they would likely both eventually die.

If you believe that unborn children are less than human, maybe even less than animals, then of course this will seem barbaric. What person would allow another person to die for the sake of two creatures that rank lower than a cat?

As always, this abortion argument comes down to how we value unborn children. This is a tragic case that clearly should have never happened, but if there were no doubt that the children were full human beings with their human rights already intact, then most people would agree with the church's stance, or something close to it.

I do wonder - why not just "nearer to term"? Why full-term? At 24 weeks, the babies would have still been quite small and yet would have had a chance to survive. Going back to the Siamese twin example, it may have been acceptable to risk harming or killing her and her twin in an attempt to save the lives of both. There is the extreme of abortion, and the extreme of full-term babies causing maternal (and almost certainly infant) deaths - but there is middle ground, as well.

Admittedly, I am taking your word that a 9 year old couldn't carry twins to term. I personally am dubious, as 9-year-olds were allowed to wed in some cultures in the past; also, if a five-year-old could give birth to one child (Lina Medina), it does not seem implausible that a nine-year-old could support twins. At the very least, you seem to be wrong in concluding that a nine-year-old's uterus would be too small to support a single pregnancy.

March 21, 2009 - 1:57am
EmpowHER Guest

I don't see the Church's response to the abortion as considering the 9 year old's life worthless, more valuing the twins she carried. (And I'm not saying I agree with the Church, but the logical is faulty to make that leap.)

Not knowing the story, was her life medically in jeopardy or was risk of injury and health issues more the situation. The Church does accept abortion in cases of a woman's life being threatened, from what I understand of doctrine.

March 17, 2009 - 10:13am
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

You are right Anon, in terms of the doctrine but there is a huge exception.

If, for example, a hysterectomy is needed to save a woman's life, and she is pregnant - then abortion is allowed. But if the actual pregnancy itself could kill her (like in the case of this little girl), then it is not allowed.

In other words, the life saving procedure must essentially destroy her life-giving anatomy (ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes etc) for it to be allowed.

For a woman to have an abortion in the eyes of the RC church, she must be left, essentially, physically unable to have another child. It's likely that this child may die carrying twins, but the RC church would want her to carry them as long as possible and then have a c-section, in order to ensure the safety of the twins, and also to cross fingers that the pregnant child is also safe.

But if her life is only "possibly" at risk, the RC church would enforce the pregnancy. The child's life is not considered more valid than the unborn child's.

I hope this explains the doctrine a little. Abortion is technically allowed in the RC church, but only if the life saving procedure of the mother includes procedures directly in the reproductive organs where the unborn child is.

It's confusing, I know.

March 18, 2009 - 11:20am
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