A pregnant ten-year-old is ineligible for abortion in her Mexican state, causing many to criticize Mexico's restrictive laws. But her disturbing case has something to teach us in the US as well.
According to CNN, the girl was allegedly raped by her stepfather, who's since been arrested. Her state, Quintana Roo, does allow abortion in cases of rape but only for the first 90 days of pregnancy, and she is 17 1/2 weeks along. Abortions for any reason are legal in Mexico City, but only for the first 12 weeks. Abortion-rights advocates say the girl was never informed of her right to terminate, but it's not entirely clear how far along she was when her mother discovered the pregnancy and reported it. It's certainly possible that neither she nor her mother even considered the possibility she could be pregnant, allowing the window of legality to pass.
Now the girl is in state protective custody, and Quintana Roo Attorney General Francisco Alor Quezada says, "I do not think there is another instance in which the girl could be in better hands." While it's certainly good that she's been removed from contact with her stepfather, the girl has been raped, become pregnant, forced to continue the pregnancy, and then removed from her home, any one of which would be terrifying, especially to someone who's still a child herself. And Quintana Roo state legislator Maria Hadad says the girl's pregnancy could cause her additional physical and psychological troubles. She explains, "It's not just a high-risk pregnancy. It's a pregnancy that puts the girl at risk."
At this time, reproductive rights groups are asking for "accountability" and an investigation into the state's handling of the girl's case, not necessarily an exception to the law. But her sad story does shed light on why seemingly small concessions to anti-choice groups can have big effects on individual lives. Newsweek's Sarah Kliff said pro-choice advocates "often go to extremes to fend off even the smallest encroachments, opposing popular restrictions like parental-notification laws and bans on late-term procedures." But the rape and pregnancy of a ten-year-old girl expose an inherent problem with parental notification laws — what if she had had to notify her rapist? And it's a ban on late-term abortion (though defined more strictly in Mexico than in the US) that's now forcing a child to go through with her pregnancy. Of course, hers is an extreme case. But sadly, she's far from the only minor to be raped by a family member in Mexico or the US, and far from the only person of any age to fail to recognize a pregnancy until it's relatively far advanced. And though her young age makes her story especially upsetting, she should be a reminder that all people need reproductive rights, and that "small encroachments" can put real girls and women at risk.