On March 4, a nine-year-old, 80-pound girl, pregnant with her stepfather’s twins, was brought into a hospital in Brazil’s northeastern city of Recife where doctors performed an abortion. The girl had been raped by the 23-year-old man, according to CNN International, who had been abusing the girl since she was six years old—and had also sexually abuse the girl’s 14-year-old handicapped sister. In Brazil, abortion is only legal in cases of rape, or where the mother’s life is in danger—both of which applied to this situation.
However, the Vatican has gone ahead and excommunicated the doctors who performed the abortions, and the mother of the girl—“everyone involved,” according to Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, the region’s Archbishop—everyone, that is, except the rapist. Abortion is an excommunicable sin, but not raping the 9-year-old girl who is supposed to be in your care? Forgive me if I fail to see the justice.
Luckily, President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva has advocated for the rights of the girl. The president—who recently tossed condoms out to the Carnival crowds—has spoken out in support of the girl and the doctors, and even gone as far as to condemn the Vatican’s move, according to London’s Daily Telegraph. "As a Christian and a Catholic, I deeply regret that a bishop has had such conservative behavior," he told the paper. "In this case, medicine is more right than the Church."
Additionally, Brazilians have stepped up in the girl’s defense, petitioning online (in Portuguese) for themselves to be excommunicated in “solidarity with” the mother and the doctors.
Perhaps this is signaling a move in Brazil for more comprehensive family planning legislation. Right now, doctors in the highly Catholic country perform about 1 million abortions per year for those able to afford it, and hospitals are left to treat about 200,000 women suffering from complications after visiting clandestine clinics. Perhaps this ban on abortion is the will of the Church, and not the will of the people. It’s time for the Vatican to step back and see just how outdated their doctrines actually are; and with Spain and Brazil—two of the last Catholic strongholds left—moving towards the acceptance of abortion, maybe the Vatican will be forced to reconsider their stance. Or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking.