EXCLUSIVE: An 11-year-old girl in Mexico allegedly raped by her stepfather and now more than four months pregnant says she wants to have his baby – despite pressure from women’s groups who want her to have an abortion, pro-life activists in the country say.
They say attorneys for abortion-rights activists have shown up at the girl's home with plane tickets in hand in an attempt to whisk her away to get an abortion, but the child has said adamantly, “This is my baby. I’m having my baby. I will call my girl Alejandra.”
The mother-to-be, from the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, has become the poster child for abortion rights in a country where laws pertaining to the procedure vary dramatically from state to state.
In 2007, Mexico City passed a law allowing abortions to be performed without restrictions in the first three months of pregnancy. The law was challenged, but it was upheld on appeal. Since then, 17 of Mexico’s 32 states have added an amendment to their constitutions that protects "life beginning at conception," makes abortion illegal and, in some cases, a crime equivalent to homicide.
Quintana Roo, the Yucatan state that is home to the popular resort destination Cancun, has a similar amendment. Abortion is allowed there only in cases of rape and when the mother’s life is at risk, and only within the first 90 days of pregnancy.
Last month, when the then-10-year-old girl’s mother told police that her daughter had been raped by the girl's stepfather, she told authorities that she thought her daughter was 14 weeks pregnant, or 98 days, which was beyond the state’s 90-day limit. But women’s rights groups said that because it was unclear exactly how far along the girl was in her pregnancy, an argument could be made that she was still within the 90-day limit.
Conservative groups say that's when abortion-rights activists latched onto the girl, who is now nearing her 19th week of pregnancy, and turned her into the face of their international campaign to legalize abortion.
Women’s rights groups maintain that the girl is small even for an 11-year-old and that forcing her to give birth puts her life in danger. They say she is being pressured to have the child and was never informed of all her options.
But others say that’s not true.
Patricia Lopez Mancera, director of the conservative Center for Women’s Studies and Comprehensive Formation in Cancun, says she has been in constant communication with the girl’s mother and the child welfare services institution where the girl currently lives.
Recounting the mother’s story of her daughter’s pregnancy and the girl's decision to have the baby, she said, “Abortion was never an option. The girl and her mother never thought about it.”
Mancera said the girl's family wasn't concerned when she missed her period in November, because she commonly had irregular periods. But in December, when the girl started vomiting in the mornings and frequently felt dizzy, her mother took her to the doctor and found out she was pregnant.
The mother had a nervous breakdown and demanded her daughter tell her what happened, Mancera said. Finally, the girl said her stepfather had raped her. The mother flew into a fit of rage and went directly to the police to the report the rape, and the stepfather was arrested. He remains in jail.
(Mancera says the mother still doubts whether her husband is the unborn child’s father — something that will be sorted out when DNA testing is done after the baby’s birth.)
The girl has been temporarily placed in a child services housing facility where counselors met with the girl and her mother to discuss their options, Mancera said.
She said they were asked of their plans and the girl immediately said, “We’re going to have a baby.”
The mother said she was planning on registering the child as her own, then turned to the girl and said, “It’s going to be like a little brother.”
The girl responded, “But it’s going to be my baby anyway.”
Mancera said the director of the state facility told both mother and daughter that they had a list of 67 couples who wanted a child and that giving up the baby for adoption would be a wonderful thing to do.
Again, the girl said, “No, no, no, we’re having it.”
Mancera said abortion was never even considered, but they soon fell under the pressure of women’s rights groups that showed up at the girl's home to talk to her mother about abortion.
But Maria Luisa Sanchez Fuentes, director of the Information Group on Reproductive Choice, says her organization and others just wanted to inform the girl and her mother of their choices, and that they would never want to force anyone to have an abortion against her will.
She said the family was very poor, was being taken advantage of by the state government and was too scared to make a decision other than the one proposed by the government: to have the baby.
But Mancera said the decision was made by the girl and her mother, not anyone else.
“She is very much into motherhood,” Mancera said of the girl.
She said the girl and her baby are doing well in the government’s care. The girl was taken for an ultrasound last week and was able to see the fetus and learn its sex for the first time. She said the 11-year-old was very excited to see the image of her baby girl moving during the ultrasound.
“When the girl looks at the baby on the screen she is even more sure she wants to have it,” Mancera said. “The mother said,“That’s my grandchild, we are going to have this baby.”
The girl said she’d picked out a name for a baby, a name she wishes were her own. “Her name is Alejandra,” she told doctors, Mancera said.
One of the main health concerns has been malnutrition, and the focus has been on providing the girl with lots of vegetables, vitamins and folic acid, she said.
The girl's doctors say she and her baby are in good health, Mancera said, but that because of the girl’s small size she’s going to need constant medical attention when she reaches her seventh month. Because of her size, the doctors will perform a cesarean section.