11-year-old rape victim caught in middle of abortion debate gives birth in Paraguay

Pro-life demonstrators protest against abortion and gay marriage in Luque, near AsunciĆ³n in Paraguay.Reuters

A pre-teen girl in socially conservative Paraguay who was denied an abortion by the government after being allegedly raped by her stepfather gave birth last week, highlighting the intense debate between protecting life of the unborn and human rights.

The minor gave birth via caesarean section in a Red Cross hospital in Asuncion, Paraguay's capital, said Elizabeth Torales, a lawyer for the girl's mother, TIME wrote.

There were no complications and both the mother and the child were in good condition.

"The baby doesn't yet have a name," said the lawyer, who noted that her client and the minor's grandmother have already asked for custody of the baby.

The girl allegedly suffered rape at the hands of her stepfather, who is now awaiting trial, when she was 10.

Her mother has asked for an abortion for the girl, which the government turned down, drawing praise from religious groups and criticism from human rights organisations, including UN officials.

Paraguay, where the Roman Catholic Church wields great influence, bans abortion except when the mother's life is in danger. The girl was five months pregnant and appeared healthy at the time when her mother sought abortion for her.

Amnesty International said they are glad the girl made it through but said the fact that "she did not die does not excuse the human rights violations she suffered at the hands of the Paraguayan authorities."

Meanwhile, Mariano Mercado, the spokesperson for the Paraguayan Episcopal Conference, maintained the Church's stance but did not mention the girl's case.

"Human life is sacred and should be respected and protected from the moment of conception until death," he said.

Carlos Gilizzola, a doctor who also serves in the Senate, said he has been proposing to boost sex education funding for four years now.

"The majority of Christian churches, led by the Catholic Church, campaigned in 2012 to make sure the bill wasn't even taken up in committee," he said.

Some 600 girls age 14 and below become pregnant yearly in the South American country with a 6.8-million population.

The girl's 32-year-old mother was immediately arrested when the girl's case was publicised in May, according to CNN. She has been charged with child neglect and complicity.

The girl's mother was released on bond in June, but still faces charges. Once out of jail, she told CNN that she went to authorities asking for help in November 2013.

"I was the one who reported all of this, asking for justice to be done and hoping that something would be done, but prosecutors dismissed the case," she said in June. "Otherwise, this would have never gotten to this point."

However, it was the neighbours who reported the abuse, according to Paraguayan Health Minister Antonio Barrios. The mother allegedly denied accusations against her husband.