A judge in Brazil ordered a 10-year-old rape victim to be removed from her family and sent to a shelter to prevent her from having an abortion

·3-min read
A woman holds a sign in support of legal abortion during a demonstration to commemorate the International Womens Day at the city center of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 08, 2022.
A woman holds a sign in support of legal abortion during a demonstration to commemorate the International Womens Day at the city center of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 08, 2022.MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP via Getty Images
  • A 10-year-old rape victim in Brazil only realized she was pregnant after 22 weeks, The Washington Post reported.

  • Her family took her to a hospital for an abortion which refused to operate because it was past 20 weeks.

  • The case went to a judge who then tried to convince the girl to stay pregnant.

A Brazilian judge tried to convince an 11-year-old rape victim not to have an abortion and ordered her removed from her family to prevent an abortion, The Washington Post reported.

Audio from the hearing was leaked and released by independent news agency Intercept Brasil last month, triggering outcry across Brazil, where abortion in cases of rape is legal.

According to Intercept Brasil, the girl's mother took her to the hospital, 2 days after realizing she was pregnant. She was 22 weeks and two days into her pregnancy and the hospital had a policy of only conducting abortions up until 20 weeks. In Brazil, there is no time limit on when a rape victim can get an abortion.

The case was then taken to a judge, Intercept reported. The judge and a prosecutor tried to pressure the girl into completing her pregnancy and potentially putting the child up for adoption, according to the Intercept. The judge ordered the girl to be removed from her family and initially placed in a shelter as authorities investigate abuse, but according to the Intercept the measure was ordered to prevent the girl from obtaining a legal abortion.

The judge directed inaccurate information toward the girl and her family to pressure her to continue with the pregnancy, the Post reported.

"In terms of the little baby, do you understand that if we interrupt the pregnancy, the baby is born and we have to wait for the baby to die?" Zimmer falsely said, according to the Post. "Can you understand that? That it is immense cruelty? That the baby will be born and cry until he dies?"

In a May hearing, Brazilian Judge Joana Ribeiro Zimmer asked the girl, then 10 years old if she could stand to be pregnant "a little while longer?" the Intercept reported, citing the leaked audio.

Advocates told the Post, that the incident showed how difficult it is for women to get abortions even in cases where they are legally allowed to. Human Rights Watch reported that in Brazil abortions are legal in the case of rape, incest, or when the woman's life is in danger. In those cases, an abortion can be conducted at any point in the pregnancy.

"What we see in Brazil and in other countries in Latin America where abortion is criminalized, on top of the law, there are barriers created that make it harder to access care," Debora Diniz, an anthropologist at the University of Brasilia who studies abortion rights told the Post. "And the most vulnerable people, the most fragile, are the most impacted."

The Washington Post reported that the girl eventually had an abortion on June 23, more than a month after she initially sought out the procedure. The federal public prosecutor's office ordered the hospital to perform the operation. The Associated Press reported that Brazil's judicial watchdog agency is investigating Zimmer over the incident. More than 300,000 people have signed a petition to have her removed from the bench.

Experts like Diniz told the Post, that the incident could foreshadow what could happen in the US after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

"When there is a state of judicial insecurity, as we see now in the United States, with each state deciding its own policy, that insecurity creates a space ripe for misinformation and fear," Diniz said.

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