An 11-year-old girl in Brazil who was raped and did not want to give birth after becoming pregnant received legal abortion of the foetus seven weeks after she appealed to court, sparking anger over poor abortion rights legislation in the country.
The case also called into question the alleged conduct of the judge hearing the case, who told the girl to “hold on a little more”.
The girl had appealed to court last month when her pregnancy had reached 22 weeks and doctors refused to abort the foetus citing the duration of the pregnancy, said her lawyer Daniela Felix.
After the seventh month the Polydoro Ernani de Sao Thiago hospital finally acted on “measures to interrupt the minor’s pregnancy” after a formal request was made by the girl’s family, said federal prosecutors in Brazil’s southern state Santa Catarina on Thursday.
The child, who had refused to give birth but faced pressure from authorities, received the abortion on Wednesday night.
She was 10 years old when she was raped but had turned 11 when she was informed of the pregnancy.
What caused a further wave of public backlash was the judge’s methods and her remarks while hearing the case in which she refuted the child’s request for abortion.
In a hearing on 9 May, judge Joana Ribeiro Zimmer asked the girl whether she understood how pregnancies happen. Ms Zimmer also suggested the girl “hold on a little more” to save the foetus, showed video of the court proceedings.
Ms Zimmer had also backed doctors who had refused to carry out the abortion and denied the girl’s request for the same.
The judge also reportedly isolated the girl from her family and ordered for her to be put in a state shelter.
According to local police and prosecutors, the girl’s relatives are suspects in the crime.
The judge is now being investigated for stopping the preteen from accessing abortion and terminating the unwanted pregnancy, officials from Brazil’s judicial watchdog agency National Council of Justice said on Thursday.
An investigation into the case was launched on Tuesday, the council said.
Human rights groups and magistrates sought Ms Zimmer’s removal as a judge after the case was widely reported in Brazil last week.
The judge said she “will not speak about parts of the hearing”, which she claimed “were illegally leaked”.
Ms Zimmer said she will remain silent about the case “to assure the due and full protection to the child”.
The handling of the case by Ms Zimmer will be probed by the same Santa Catarina court system in southern Brazil from where the decision will be referred to her own court in the southern Brazil state.
It will be then sent to Brazil’s national watchdog to arrive at a final decision.
The case has also taken a political angle, with president Jair Bolsonaro’s son backing Ms Zimmer’s decision and saying he agreed with the judge.
“You should bear in mind the first ones to stop this abortion were in a medical team. Respect science,” lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro said.
The denial of abortion also saw reprisal in the international community.
“A judge in Brazil has refused to let an 11-year-old rape victim have an abortion — and ordered the girl to be detained to prevent her from trying to get one. This is the kind of rights-abusing madness the US can look forward to…,” European media director of Human Rights Watch Andrew Stroehlein said in a reference to the pending ruling in the landmark case of Roe v Wade .