Doctor Sentenced To Prison For Refusing To Perform An Abortion

An Argentine court has upheld the criminal conviction of a gynaecologist who refused to abort the child of a rape victim in 2017. Dr Leandro Rodriguez Lastra was sentenced to a 14-month suspended jail term, plus 28 months of disqualification from holding public office. Dr Rodriguez Lastro will appeal.

The victim was a 19-year-old in her fifth month of pregnancy, the result of sexual abuse by a relative. At first she used an abortion drug provided by an NGO. That failed and she was referred to the hospital where Rodríguez Lastra was head of gynecology.

The doctor said that abortion posed a risk to both the unborn child and the mother. However, the judges said that the only thing necessary for a legal termination of pregnancy was a formal request from the rape victim. 

The child was later given up for adoption.

In a divided vote, judges Miguel Angel Cardella and María Rita Custet Llambí considered that in this case “the gender perspective should be applied,” and therefore held that the accused is guilty of the crime 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,” the judges declared. “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.”

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[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Michael Cook. Title changed by P&P, and first published at BioEdge]