Romania to Allow 11-Year-Old Alleged Rape Victim to Have Late Abortion

An 11-year-old pregnant girl allegedly raped by her uncle will travel to Britain for an abortion despite a government ruling that the procedure can take place in Romania.

Ignoring pressure from a number of religious groups, a government committee ruled Friday that the girl could have an abortion in Romania even though her 21-week pregnancy is beyond the 14-week limit set by law. Abortions can only be carried out later than 14 weeks in Romania to save the life of the mother.

But the family said they would still travel to Britain for the termination.

"We are determined to go to Britain....there's nothing that can be done Romania," the girl's father was quoted as telling state news agency Rompres after the ruling. "On Tuesday we're going and that is our final decision."

A Romanian in Britain has offered to finance the trip and the family has already bought flight tickets.

In Britain, an abortion is legal up to 24 weeks if two doctors decide that the risk to a woman's physical or mental health will be greater if she continues with the pregnancy than if she ends it.

"'I want to go to school and to play. If I can't do this my life will be a nightmare,"' said a letter from the girl, read out Friday by health ministry official and committee member Vlad Iliescu.

"The girl's mental health would be severely affected if she had a baby," Iliescu said.

The country's Doctors' Council, a professional body that represents doctors, said Friday's ruling was only a recommendation and any Romanian doctor who carried out an abortion would be held legally responsible.

The girl's pregnancy only became known June 2 when her parents took her to a doctor because she appeared unwell. She told doctors she had been raped by her 19-year-old uncle, who has since disappeared.

Romanian daily Evenimentul Zilei reported that the girl was depressed because other children in the village in northeast Romania where she lives were refusing to play with her because she was pregnant.

Theodora Bertzi, who was also on the committee, said that the ruling was not an effort to further liberalize abortions.

About 533 girls under the age of 15 had an abortion in 2007 in Romania, and 2,000 girls of the same age gave birth.

The case has divided Romania. On Thursday, 20 anti-abortion Orthodox groups called for her to continue with her pregnancy and offered to raise the child.

Child rights groups have appealed for tolerance because she was a rape and incest victim.

The official position of the Orthodox Church, to which more than 80 percent of Romanians belong, said it was "an exceptional situation which must be treated in an exceptional manner and the family is the only one to take this decision," church spokesman Constantin Stoica said.

He said the church considers abortion a crime, but this belief applies to normal circumstances and not to incest or rape.