ALTHOUGH IN ARGENTINA ABORTION IS NOT ILLEGAL WHEN THE LIFE OR HEALTH OF THE WOMEN IS IN DANGER, IN THE CASE OF ANA MARIA ACEVEDO, A 19-YEAR-OLD PREGNANT WOMAN DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER, DOCTORS REFUSED TO BEGIN CANCER TREATMENT OR TO CARRY OUT AN ABORTION. BOTH ANA AND THE BABY DIED. THE DOCTORS INVOLVED WERE TRIED IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS.
25 June 2008 and 11 August 2008.-
Dr Eduardo Pocoví, Court of First Instance of Criminal Correction of the Fifth Branch of Santa Fe
"Judicial summons before investigating prosecutorl Nº 1 relating to the death of ANA MARIA ACEVEDO" Case Nº 2165 2007"
In September 2006, Ana Maria Acevedo, a young 19-year-old woman and mother of three children, from the province of Santa Fe, went to a local hospital for toothache. After taking out the teeth and undergoing some tests, the patient returned in October to the hospital with a facial tumor. She was admitted and more tests were carried out. The young woman was referred to other specialists to undergo other tests and scans on her head and other parts of her body. On the 23 October she was referred to the JM Cullen Hospital in Santa Fe. She was diagnosed with cancer and moved to the Hospital Iturraspe for treatment. In Novermber she was informed that they were considering the possibility of treating her with radiotherapy and after another appointment during which the patient stated that she was late in her menstruation cycle, they ordered a pregnancy test which came back positive. When you young woman was diagnosed with cancer she was not informed about the risks of becoming pregnant.
When the patient was 3-4 weeks pregnant, the radiotherapist stated that although the adequate treatment for the type of cancer would be radiotherapy, this could not be carried out because of the negative effects this would have on the fetus and he determined that the pregnancy was a contraindication to carrying out the treatment. The young woman suffered from strong pains in her face and neck and did not receive treatment for the cancer despite the fact that both the patient and the mother repeatedly requested a therapeutic abortion so that she could be treated. The doctors replied that there was nothing that they could do because she was pregnant and they went to have a meeting with other professionals, including a judge and a priest.
After speaking with the doctor, Ana Maria´s parents spoke with the Director of the hospital, who told them that they could only carry out an abortion after the order was given by a judge. The family requested help from the ombudsman, which gave them no support. During this time, the health of Ana Maria was continuously deteriorating and she only received treatment for pain rather than for the cancer.
On the 26 April 2007, when Ana Maria was 22 weeks pregnant it was decided that a cesarean section would be carried out. Dr Emilio Schinner explained in the clinical file that the birth was put forward because ´the patient was in a pre-mortem state, that is to say, with a marked respiratory insufficiency and organ failure indicating that the ending was imminent.´ The baby died within 24 hours.
After a rapid decline in her health, Ana Maria died on the 17th May 2007. After her death, the mother and father of the young woman gave permission to ´Multisectorial de Mujeres´ a group of lawyers, to represent them in criminal proceedings.
For the first time in the country, the Court of first instance decided to condemn the doctors involved for crimes of non-compliance with the duties of a public official and for the injuries suffered. This was a precedent in that the non-practice of a legal abortion was recognised as constituting a crime.
The Association for Women´s Rights in Development (AWID) highlighted the case as an example of flagrant abuse of human rights.
The Multisectorial de Mujeres of Santa Fe followed the case, politically, legally and personally from when they were first made aware of the the situation of Ana Maria Acevedo by the press. Ms. Norma Cuevas and Ms. Marylin Acevedo, mother and sister of Ana María, attended the XXII Meeting of Women which took place in Cordoba in October 2007. Over 30,000 women participating in this gathering. They spoke about the case and received huge support from the Movement of Argentinian Women.
This case has become a paragon for feminists and Ana Maria today is an emblem for thousands of militant feminists: her history, her photo and the murals telling her story have reached people all over the world.
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