Access to abortion for poor, disabled woman amid conscientious objection in Argentina
The communication was filed by the mother of a woman with a mental impairment amounting to a legal age of a child, concerning the response of public health and judicial institutions to her pregnancy resulting from rape. After being refused by one hospital, a second hospital scheduled an abortion but was later blocked by an injunction. After some delay but upon approval of the legality of the abortion, external pressure led the second hospital to refuse to conduct the procedure citing the late stage of the pregnancy. This forced the victim to seek an illegal abortion. Rights recognized in articles 2(freedom from discrimination on various ground), 3(equal right for men and women), 7(freedom from torture and ill treatment) and 17(right to privacy) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights were considered on the merits by the Committee. Although not deemed to constitute torture, the mental and physical suffering caused by the refusal to provide a safe abortion and the requirement of the victim to resort to an unsafe illegal abortion constituted a number of violations of L.M.R.’s rights. Firstly, the right to privacy (Article 17(1)) was violated by to the unlawful involvement of the judiciary, as it should have involved the victim, her representation and her doctor. The State was also found to have committed a violation of the victim’s right to an effective remedy (Article 2(3)a) and non-discrimination (Article 3), compounded by the “victim’s status as a poor, disabled woman” (para.3.5).
The views of the Committee asserted a duty of the State to ensure that effective remedies were not only legal, but accessible. The particular protective duties were reiterated with regards to vulnerable people, in this case a poor woman with a disability, and the State was ordered to provide compensation not only for the physical, but also undue mental distress. The state was also ordered to take appropriate steps to prevent similar violation in the future.