An Argentinian doctor has been sentenced to a 14-month suspended jail term, plus 28 months of disqualification from holding public office because he refused to commit an abortion on a woman who was 23 weeks pregnant. The ruling will be appealed.
Dr. Leandro Rodríquez Lastra was convicted in May 2019 of failing to carry out his duty as a public official by refusing to do an abortion requested of him in 2017. The woman was 19 years old and had become pregnant through a sexual assault by a relative. She had been given an abortion drug by the feminist NGO “La Revuelta” but it did not work and her baby survived because she was too far along in her pregnancy. She went to Pedro Moguillansky Hospital in severe pain, telling doctors she had been given Misoprostol to induce an abortion. Taking the abortion pill after 10 weeks increases the risks to the mother’s health and can cause incomplete abortions.
Rodríguez Lastra found the woman had an infection and was in danger of going into septic shock. She was at risk of losing her uterus and her life. An expert testified during the trial that Rodríquez Lastra had saved the woman’s life. Rodríquez Lastra, the patient’s mother, hospital management, neonatologists, psychologists, and social workers agreed to not have the woman undergo an abortion, and a C-section was performed at 35 weeks to give both mother and child a chance at life. Even the Ministry of Health and the Family Judge agreed with this. After the baby was born, he or she was placed for adoption.
According to BioEdge, the vote to convict Rodríquez Lastra was divided, but ultimately he was found guilty of “failure to comply with the duties of a public official.”
“A woman who is pregnant as a result of rape has the right to access the medical practice of legal abortion in public health facilities and the defendant obstructed that process,” Judges Miquel Angel Cardella and María Rita Custet Llambí said. “the accused did not respect the personal autonomy of the woman in the exercise of his medical profession as an employee of the province’s public hospital.”
The attorney for Rodríquez Lastra called the verdict “a mere ideological expression that shows that they did not look at anything in the trial, in fact they practically do not cite the witnesses or anything that happened there. It’s as if they didn’t see it.” The lawyer continued with the promise of appealing the conviction stating that “if the Superior Court or the Court applies the law, as it should, we will be able to overturn this ruling.”
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