Child of raped minor in Bolivia dies shortly after forced delivery at 24 weeks

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The child of a pregnant 11-year-old rape victim in Bolivia died several hours after his birth on Saturday. The mother had refused to procure abortion, and was made to deliver her child when she was 24 weeks pregnant.

Bolivia’s People’s Ombudsman’s Office, charged with defending human rights, got a court order on constitutional grounds to have minor girl removed from a shelter run by the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra specializing in the care of mothers and adolescent girls, and taken to a medical center.

Labor was induced at the medical center Nov. 5, and in the morning of Nov. 6 she gave birth to a live baby boy, José María, who weighed a little over 17 ounces.

José María died a few hours later.

The girl was 24 weeks pregnant at the time, and according to what ACI Prensa has been able to learn, the facility where she was taken did not have adequate conditions for dealing with the high risk delivery.

According to Bolivian newspaper El Deber, the lawyers for the minor's mother, Néstor Higa and Yovani Cabello, "charged that the mother (of the minor) was practically kidnapped and persecuted to keep her away from her own daughter."

The girl had been allegedly repeatedly raped by her 61-year old-grandfather, who is currently in custody, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. 

State authorities had been pressuring the girl and her mother to agree to an abortion.

Some governmental institutions, including the People’s Ombudsman’s Office as well as the Bolivian and international press, charged that the Catholic Church in the country had intervened or forced the girl and her mother to refuse to procure an abortion, to continue with the pregnancy, and be transferred to a shelter. 

The accusations led to protests and the vandalism of the city’s cathedral and the offices of the bishops’ conference.

The Ombudsman’s Office for Children and Adolescents had the girl transferred from the hospital where she had been admitted to a shelter run by the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz de la Sierra when she was 21 weeks pregnant.

However, the archdiocese denied it had intervened in the case and stressed that the decision to transfer the girl to the Church-run shelter was made by solely by Ombudsman’s Office for Children and Adolescents.

Archbishop Sergio Alfredo Gualberti Calandrina of Santa Cruz de la Sierra led a moment of prayer Nov. 7 with the tolling of the church bells as a sign of mourning for the death of José María after the premature delivery orchestrated by the Bolivian authorities.

In his reflection, the archbishop questioned: “If the reason the authorities adduce is that  the young mother's life was in danger, why was this procedure performed in a second-level hospital, instead of in a third-category hospital with a good neonatal ward?"

Archbishop Gualberti challenged why a teenager up to the age of 16 needs a parent’s signature to get the COVID vaccine, but “they prevented the mother from accompanying the 11 year old girl in most of the long and tragic ordeal and kept in isolation without her informed consent. They didn't, because they just wanted to carry out their nefarious plan to get rid of the baby.”

"Let’s be completely certain of this: one day God will ask all of us, without making distinctions between us, if we have defended all human life or if we have been hawkers for and executioners of death," the archbishop said.

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