Argentina's Supreme Court has ruled that victims of rape will no longer be prosecuted for having an abortion.
In what Associated Press describes as "an historic precedent" in the predominantly Catholic country, doctors who perform the procedure will also be exempt from punishment.
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The decision, which was passed unanimously, means that abortions can be carried out once the victim or her lawyer presents an affidavit confirming that a pregnancy is the result of rape, Prensa Latina explains.
Until now, abortions were only allowed in Argentina if women were judged to be mentally ill.
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AFP says that the Supreme Court's decision backed the 2010 ruling of a provincial court in southern Chubut, which granted an abortion to a 15-year-old girl who became pregnant after being raped by her stepfather.
However, in the ruling, the Head of the Supreme Court Ricardo Lorenzini emphasized that the ruling should not be seen as the start of a process to legalize abortion, the Buenos Aires Herald reports.
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“The ruling is not opening any door for a possible legalization of the abortion. We are just saying that women who were victim of sexual abuse can now terminate their pregnancies as it was already contemplated by the Criminal law code but was not being respected by many courts and/or judges,”Lorenzini is quoted as saying.
The BBC says that about 500,000 illegal abortions are carried out in Argentina each year.