Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Romania Churches Divided Over 11-Year-Old's Abortion Approval

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - The government ruled Thursday that an 11-year-old rape victim would be allowed to have an abortion in Romania, dismissing the opposition of 20 church groups.

Pro-life Christian Orthodox groups had threatened to press charges if the girl was allowed to have an abortion in Romania since it would be beyond the 14 week legal limit. The girl is 21 weeks pregnant.

The stance of the church groups was in contrast to the Romanian Orthodox Church's official view that the decision should be left to the girl's family. The parents initially wanted to travel to a country where it would be legal.

"We are talking about ... the rights of this child who was subjected to rape and incest," said Theodora Bertzi, a Labor Ministry official and who was sitting on a committee, made up of government officials and experts, who ruled on the case.

The girl's pregnancy was revealed earlier this month when her parents took her to a doctor because she appeared sick. She told doctors she had been raped by her 19-year-old uncle, who has since disappeared.

The case has bitterly split the medical community, child rights groups and the public.

In a statement, the church groups offered "material, spiritual and psychological help" to the child's impoverished family, adding they would also rear the child in a church institution if the family was unable to care for it.

But splits were apparent even within the church.

Constantin Stoica, spokesman for the Romanian Orthodox Church, to which more than 80 percent of Romanians belong, said Wednesday it was "an exceptional situation which must be treated in an exceptional manner and the family is the only one to take this decision."

He said the church considers abortion a crime, but this belief applies to normal circumstances and not to incest or rape.

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