Abortion row rages over 10-year-old girl allegedly raped by stepfather

The 10-year-old was allegedly raped by her stepfather
The 10-year-old was allegedly raped by her stepfather

A leading church figure in Paraguay has said that the nation has been split over the case of a pregnant 10-year-old girl denied an abortion.

Police said last Saturday they had arrested the girl's fugitive stepfather, who is accused of raping the child.

Local media quoted the man as saying he is denying any guilt.

The girl's mother had been detained earlier for allegedly failing to protect her.

Police Commissioner Luis Rojas said the 42-year-old man had been placed in isolation to prevent other inmates from attacking him over the alleged rape.

The argument over the girl’s welfare has drawn unusually strong attention to the issues of child abuse and abortion, which is banned in all cases except when the mother's life is in danger in Paraguay.

"The country is divided in two," said Monsignor Claudio Gimenez

"Some want to legalise abortion, the killing of an innocent who still is in a period of gestation. And for the other side, those who oppose that idea."

Former Health Minister Esperanza Martinez complained that the debate about whether the girl is physically able to bear a child overlooks her own mental and physical wellbeing.

For officials, Martinez said during a Senate session: "This girl became a uterus. She became a birth canal."

About 600 girls 14 or under become pregnant each year in the country of 6.8 million people.

Amnesty International has asked authorities to allow an abortion to protect the girl, or at least to create a medical panel to assess her health. But the current health minister, Antonio Barros, said that the girl was in good health in hospital and that the pregnancy, at five months, was too advanced.