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Argentinian Doctor Convicted For Refusing To Perform Abortion; Faces Up To 2 Years In Prison

Stages of fetal development.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
 

Argentinian OB-GYN Dr. Leandro Rodríguez Lastra has been found guilty of "breaching the duties of a public official" after he allegedly interrupted the process of a medication-based abortion in 2017, according to local news outlet La Mañana de Cipoletti.

 

In April 2017, a 19-year-old woman who claims to have been raped arrived at Pedro Moguillansky Hospital in Cipoletti having taken misoprostal in order to induce an abortion. Dr. Rodríguez Lastra, head of gynecology, did not perform the abortion, but allegedly gave the woman drugs to reverse the effects of the misoprostal.

Live Action reports that the doctor "determined that [the woman] had an infection and was in danger of septic shock. She was at risk of losing her uterus and of dying. An obstetric expert testified that this diagnosis was correct, and that Rodríguez Lastra saved the woman’s life."

While often used "for the prevention and treatment of gastric ulcers associated with the use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs," misoprostal is also "useful for elective medical abortion, cervical ripening before surgical abortion, evacuation of the uterus in cases of embryonic or fetal death, and induction of labor," according to an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The Catholic Herald reports that the fetus was almost 23 weeks gestational age upon inspection by the doctor. After Rodríguez Lastra treated the woman, she reportedly carried the child nearly to term, after which labor was induced, or a c-section was performed, and the child was adopted.

While abortion is largely illegal in Argentina, the law states that in cases of rape, the procedure may be carried out:

 

The abortion practiced by a licensed physician with the consent of the pregnant woman is not punishable:

1. If it has been done in order to avoid a danger to life or health of the mother and if this danger can not be avoided by other means;

2. If the pregnancy comes from a rape or an attack on the shame committed on an idiot or demented woman. In this case, the consent of your legal representative shall be required for the abortion.

La Mañana de Cipoletti quotes Judge Álvaro Meynet, who stated that because Dr. Rodríguez Lastra was not officially known as a "conscientious objector," he was obligated to perform the abortion:

During the events, Rodríguez Lastra was not in the registry of conscientious objectors. It can be inferred that the accused did not have a public position contrary to the practice of abortion, at least in cases covered by the law. He is accused of not having provided a professional medical benefit in the legal framework to which he is obliged.

 

The judge added: "The administration of drugs is added to reverse the process initiated by the patient, so the accused never had the slightest intention of carrying out the practice that the patient claimed."

Following the verdict, Rodríguez Lastra stated in part:

I am disappointed, I trusted another result, the Justice had its reading, the Judge decided and manifested it, I remain convinced of my actions. ... This is simply a setback, and all it does is show the strength we have. Justice is much more than just what has just happened. We have to accept this setback as it is. Thank you very much for everything.

The Buenos Aires Times reports that Rodríguez Lastra will be sentenced "in the coming days." La Mañana de Cipoletti writes that the doctor faces up to two years in prison and/or a suspension of his medical license. However, the exact sentence remains a mystery as of publication.

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