Conceived through rape, Victoria survived and is winning hearts.
Recently a terrible crime was committed: a 14-year-old girl in Bolivia was raped by a 42-year-old man (now in prison). This nearly led to another tragedy, when the girl and her family decided to abort the baby conceived in that act of violence. The story has been covered amply in the Bolivian news outlet El Deber and in other news sources.
A terrible situation
The girl was in an indescribably difficult and unjust situation that no woman of any age should face, much less a young girl. The difficulty and injustice of this situation is why one of the first cases in which abortion is generally made legal is that of rape. Such is the case in Bolivia, where abortion is illegal but the law allows that in cases of rape or incest, or danger to the life or health of the mother where no other means are available, “interruption of the pregnancy” will not be punished.
Nevertheless, children conceived through such abuse are not guilty of their biological father’s crime. They are further innocent victims, and to kill them is a further act of injustice.
When the Bolivian girl sought the abortion, numerous doctors at the Percy Boland Woman’s Hospital in Santa Cruz (the largest city in Bolivia) refused to provide the service, having recourse to legal protection of conscientious objection.
At the time, the girl was 26 weeks pregnant; she had hidden the pregnancy as long as she could, because of threats from the father. She was also suffering from depression, and even tried to commit suicide when the doctors refused to perform the abortion. All of this made the situation even more delicate and controversial.
Ultimately, the director of the hospital concluded that the law protecting conscientious objection didn’t apply to hospital directors, so he and another doctor agreed to oversee the abortion. The girl was administered pills to induce labor, the legally approved method for such cases.
A failed abortion, and a change of heart
Usually, these procedures are performed early in pregnancy, and the fetus is unable to survive outside the mother’s body after the prematurely induced birth. In this case, due to the advanced stage of gestation (27 weeks, or nearly 7 months, at the time of the procedure), the baby survived, which did not come as a complete surprise to the doctors, who had foreseen this possibility. The tiny girl (less than 2.5 lbs, only a third of average weight for newborns) was rushed to intensive pediatric care.
Initially, the girl and her family rejected the newborn completely. However, in the days since the baby was born, one of the mother’s older sisters saw the child and decided to take responsibility for her. “I just saw her, and she’s tiny. When she recuperates, I want to keep her. I don’t have any daughters, just two boys,” she told El Deber. The baby’s grandmother has also had a change of heart; according to another article in El Deber, she said, “My anger will pass. We can’t abandon her; she’s our blood. I’m going to love her as my granddaughter. The baby’s not to blame.”
Given the baby’s precarious condition of health, she was baptized in the hospital on June 5 with the name Victoria, which means “victory.” Indeed, her survival is a true victory of life, and she is conquering the hearts of those around her. Erwin Bazán, director of the press office of the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz, who is Victoria’s godfather, said on Facebook, “I think the beautiful thing about this is that Victoria is winning over everyone’s affection. It’s incredible to see how so many people want to help, so I’m very sure that, when Victoria overcomes this stage, among us all we’ll find the way to be sure she lacks for nothing, beginning with love.”
A mother and daughter, both in treatment
The mother is reportedly also receiving the medical and psychological care she so clearly needs. In a document published on the Diocese of Santa Cruz’s website, it says, “In the case of the mother, she deserves special attention and understanding with great affection in the difficult and unfortunate situation of having endured an unwanted pregnancy, and she must be helped, and offered all necessary psychological, moral, spiritual, and material aid.” These are not just words; Bazán says “we are accompanying the underaged rape victim with all the necessary means.”
How many unborn children are rejected and aborted before “the anger passes,” before the people involved achieve the clear-headedness to recognize that “the baby’s not to blame”? How many mothers in desperate situations are without access to the “psychological, moral, spiritual, and material aid” they need, as the victim in this case very nearly was? It falls to us all to ensure that we create a culture where the sanctity of life is not questioned, where all women’s bodies are respected and protected, and where people in need—victims of violence, poverty, and illness—find love and support.