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A girl raped in Brazil manages to have an abortion despite harassment by ultra-conservative groups

Toys of the girl, in the hospital where she is treated in Recife, Brazil.

A toad and a stuffed giraffe. Along with the grandmother and a social worker, these were the escorts of a 10-year-old Brazilian girl to the hospital where, finally, she managed to have an abortion. Victim of her uncle, who raped her since she was six years old, the minor traveled by plane between Vitória and Recife on Sunday. With a dress printed with flowers and blue geometric shapes, pink flip-flops and a bag of the same color, the pregnant girl arrived at the Recife airport at around 3 in the afternoon (local time). An aid committee, mostly made up of women, was preparing to protect the girl in her ordeal to ensure that she had the abortion, provided by law for cases like her.

The girl’s pilgrimage in search of medical attention was not limited to the physical distance between the two cities, separated by about 1,500 kilometers. The girl suffered until the last minute the pressure of activists and ultra-conservative doctors. Already admitted to the Amaury de Medeiros Integrated Health Center (CISAM), in Recife, a reference in the care of victims of sexual violence, she was harassed by an obstetrician and a pediatrician who tried to make her change her mind. But both she and her grandmother, the legal guardian of the girl, were sure of the decision to terminate that pregnancy.

In 2018, the date of the most recent data from the Ministry of Health, 21,172 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were mothers in Brazil. Of that total, 15,851 were black, like the girl in this story. She, however, was determined not to be part of that statistic. Justice had already authorized the procedure last Friday, following the request of the Espírito Santo state prosecutor’s office and understanding that the girl’s will is sovereign, and that the law allows the interruption of pregnancy in cases of rape. Even so, the victim had to face an ordeal: no hospital in Espírito Santo, where he lives, wanted to do the procedure, citing “technical” issues.

The refusal to terminate the pregnancy, coupled with the intense reaction from radical groups that began on social media, led to a race against the clock. A network of women set up a scheme to ensure that the girl traveled safely to Recife. Upon arriving at the airport, a car was already waiting for her to take her immediately to CISAM, where the intervention would be carried out. On the way, of about half an hour, she was escorted by a second car, for fear of radical groups. They finally reached the hospital, where they entered through the back door. At the gates of the medical center a few dozen militants gathered, set on fire by the Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights of Jair Bolsonaro, the evangelical pastor Damares Alves.

The activists and religious went to the hospital after Sara Giromini, a well-known right-wing extremist, spread not only the address of the hospital but also the name of the girl, in a violation of the Statute of Children and Adolescents (ECA, by the acronym in Portuguese). The case is under judicial secret, and this Monday a court ordered social networks to delete publications with the girl’s data.

Despite the mobilization, the girl was able to go unnoticed and the CISAM medical team received her in the parking lot. She was taken to a waiting room where a television broadcast the Brazilian League game between Vasco and São Paulo. The girl is passionate about soccer. Flamengo fan, shared the comments of the match with the grandmother, who is a follower of Vasco, and the social worker, a São Paulo fan. Outside, radical anti-abortion activists shouted “murderer” at the doctor Olímpio Moraes Filho, director of CISAM. The center, maintained by the State University of Pernambuco (UEP), is a regional reference in this type of intervention and in welcoming victims of sexual violence.

The trip lasted more than six hours, as there is no direct flight between Vitória and Recife. The girl had to leave her state after spending 36 hours at the Cassiano Antonio Moraes University Hospital (HUCAM), in the capital of Espírito Santo, until that center finally announced its rejection of the intervention. Rita Elizabeth Checon de Freitas Silva, head of HUCAM, told a press conference on Monday that it was “an absolutely technical decision”, without “ideological or religious bias and no outside interference.”

According to Silva, his hospital was not “qualified” to perform the abortion, because the gestation was already in the 22nd week (more than five months) and the fetus had more than 500 grams – two limiting factors for legal abortion, according to the Ministry of Health – and also the girl had developed gestational diabetes. However, in the event of rape, contrary to what the ultraconservatives boasted, abortion is allowed in situations like that, as long as the pregnant woman authorizes it. There is no tempo limit. And that was the understanding of Justice last Friday. The state Department of Health then determined that the Hospital de Clínicas de Uberlândia (Minas Gerais) be contacted, which rejected the patient due to lack of places, and the CISAM, in Recife, which welcomed the girl.

Books and modeling clay

According to people close to her, the pilgrimage of that girl, who likes to read and play with plasticine, began long before the 36 hours she spent in HUCAM. On August 8, she was taken by an aunt to the hospital in the town where she lives, São Mateus, 183 kilometers north of Vitória, complaining of abdominal pain. When it was found that she was pregnant, the girl told a social worker that she had been raped by her uncle. And she said that this happened continuously since she was 6 years old. The local police are investigating the case. The 33-year-old uncle is charged with rape of vulnerable and threatening and was arrested that Tuesday. Since she first went to the hospital, the girl had already clearly expressed her desire to terminate the pregnancy.

While Justice was deciding whether or not she could have an abortion, the girl received visits from evangelical pastors at her home who tried to convince her not to undergo the intervention. The Espírito Santo prosecutor’s office promised to investigate groups that tried to pressure the girl’s grandmother. The archbishop of the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife, Fernando Saburido, also tried to make it clear that the high Catholic hierarchy is aligned with the ultra-conservatives: “If serious was the violence of the uncle who had been abusing a defenseless girl (…), The abortion carried out in Recife was very serious ”.

But at the same time as the pressures grew inside and outside the hospital, the resistance network was also gaining strength. That Monday, after the Pernambuco Health Secretariat reported that the intervention had been carried out and the girl was fine, the group of women continued to mobilize. They had filled the child’s room with books and toys for when the girl returned from the operating room. On Sunday, she had already received a box of plasticine and did not part with the gift, along with her toad and her giraffe.