[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Argentina [official website, in Spanish] ruled [judgment, in Spanish] on Tuesday that rape victims cannot be prosecuted for seeking abortions. The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed [BBC report] the lower court’s ruling which allowed a 15-year-old girl to obtain an abortion after she was sexually assaulted by her stepfather. In its decision, the court adopted a broad interpretation of Section II, Article 86 of the Argentine Penal Code [text, in Spanish], which outlaws abortion except to save the life of the mother or where “the pregnancy [results] from a rape or indecent assault committed on a female idiot or insane.” In the past, courts have interpreted the provision to require that the rape victim suffer from a mental disability in order to qualify for the Article 86 exception. The court determined, however, that a proper reading of the entire article supports the interpretations that all rape victims may legally seek abortions. The decision stated that future rape victims would not be required to seek judicial approval in order to obtain the procedure. The case, however, caused backlash among the Argentinian population due to the amount of time it took for the court to render a verdict.
Recently, activists have called for the reformation of laws involving reproductive rights in Argentina. In 2010 Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] published a report [text; press release] on the state of reproductive rights in Argentina. The report criticized, among other things, the lack of access to safe abortions, indicating that over 20 percent of obstetric deaths are attributable to unsafe abortions, making them the leading cause of maternal mortality in the country. Abortion is a controversial issue in Latin America. Abortion remains controversial in predominately Catholic Latin America. Last year the Supreme Court of Mexico upheld [JURIST report] a state right-to-life constitutional amendment that says life begins at conception. The amendment effectively bans abortions in Mexico’s northern Baja California state. In 2008 Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez vetoed [JURIST report] legislation that would have partially decriminalized abortion in the country. In countries such as Colombia [JURIST report] and Argentina [HRW report], criminal penalties may be decreased when the mother’s life is at risk.