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03.19.12 - This week, the Argentine Supreme Court handed down a historic decision, which clarifies that abortion is decriminalized in all cases of rape. Prior to this ruling, the interpretation of the rape exception in Argentina's abortion law was unclear. The Penal Code only explicitly permits abortion in cases of rape of a mentally disabled woman, although a growing body of provincial jurisprudence, protocols, and national health regulations had interpreted this provision to permit abortion in all cases of rape. As a result of inconsistent interpretations, even young rape victims reportedly were forced to carry their pregnancies to term. Argentine law also allows abortion when a woman's life or health is in danger.
This decision, which stems from a case in which a 15-year-old girl without any disabilities was raped, specifically references United Nations and regional human rights treaties, and indicates that those treaties require governments to offer rape victims the opportunity to terminate their pregnancies. The ruling notes that limiting the rape exception to women with mental disabilities is an unreasonable distinction. This is the latest development in an international trend in which nearly every international body monitoring states' compliance with human rights treaties has called on countries to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape-including in a recently decided case argued by the Center for Reproductive Rights: L.C. v. Peru. In this case, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommended that Peru not only take steps to implement its abortion law, but called on it to change its law in order to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape.
The President of the Supreme Court was quoted in a number of Spanish news outlets stating that the decision brings Argentina in line with international law.