A Vatican official has said the Catholic church will excommunicate a medical team who performed Colombia's first legal abortion on an 11-year-old girl, who was eight weeks pregnant after being raped by her stepfather.
Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, the president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, said in addition to the doctors and nurses, the measure could apply to "relatives, politicians and lawmakers" whom he called "protagonists in this abominable crime."
The girl, whose identity has not been released, had "fallen in the hands of evildoers," the cardinal said in an interview with local television on Tuesday.
In May, Colombia's constitutional court partially lifted the ban on abortion in this deeply Catholic country, allowing pregnancies to be terminated in cases of severe deformity of the foetus, when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or when the mother's life is in danger.
The first test of the ruling came when the girl sought to terminate her pregnancy, which followed her being raped by her stepfather. The man admitted to the abuse, which began when the child was seven.
When the case became public, doctors were wary of performing the abortion as the text of the court's ruling has yet to be published and they feared prosecution. But the high court issued a new ruling, compelling doctors to abide by its decision if the woman's case fell within the criteria.
Once the ruling was handed down, the girl's pregnancy was terminated at a public hospital in Bogota. Carlos Lemus, the director of Simon Bolivar hospital where the abortion was performed, said he respected the church's decision but did not share its view.
"We acted within the constitutional framework," Lemus said. "We were faced with the petition of a girl who wanted to go back to playing with her toys."
He said Cardinal Trujillo "calls the doctors and nurses `evildoers.' I think the person who raped her is the evildoer."
"The Vatican has the right to excommunicate whomever they choose. But I would hope that they also excommunicate priests when they rape boys or girls," Senator Gina Parody, said.
The president of Colombia's ecclesiastic tribunal, Monsignor Libardo Ramirez, said according to canonical law excommunication was applied to anyone who participated in the "murder of a child in the womb."
But he added that it would be up to Cardinal Rubiano Saenz, as the leading figure of the Roman Catholic church in Colombia, to decide whether to formally apply the sanctions and to whom.
Health authorities estimate that more than 300,000 clandestine abortions are carried out each year in the country. Illegal abortion is punishable by up to three years in prison for women who terminate their pregnancies and for doctors who perform the procedure.
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