Dr Leandro Rodríguez Lastra, an OB-GYN in Argentina, was found guilty on Monday of having prevented an abortion, after he decided to save the life of an unborn baby whose mother had taken an abortion pill.
After three days of arguments in the Rio Negro Court in Argentina, Judge Álvaro Meynet found Rodríguez guilty of failing to carry out his duty as a public functionary.
In the coming days, the court will announce the sentence, which could range from suspension from practicing medicine to two years in prison.
Rodríguez is the head of the department of gynaecology at the Pedro Moguillansky Hospital in Cipoletti. In May 2017, he treated a 19-year-old woman who was suffering severe pain due to ingesting misoprostol, the first of a two-part abortion pill regimen, which had been administered by an abortion group.
The doctor confirmed that the woman was almost 23-weeks pregnant and the baby weighed more than 1 lb. 2 oz., so in conjunction with the medical team and the hospital board, he decided not to terminate the pregnancy.
Rodríguez stabilised the patient and when the baby reached 35 weeks gestation, labour was induced. Days later, the baby was adopted and will soon be two years old.
However, Rodríguez and Dr Yamila Custillo, who also refused to perform an abortion, were cited by Río Negro legislator Marta Milesi, an advocate for the protocol of non-punishable abortion, which the province had adopted in the case of rape, which the woman alleged.
Custilla was dropped from the complaint in May 2018. But the case against Rodríguez continued on the grounds that he had stopped an abortion in progress.
Judge Meynet ruled that the doctor carried out a “delaying manoeuvre” to take advantage of a vulnerable woman. He said that since Rodríguez was not registered as a conscientious objector, he was obliged by law to perform the abortion.
During the course of the trial, thousands of people and pro-life institutions in the country backed the doctor through social media, petitions drives, marches, and vigils outside the court.
After the reading of the verdict, Rodríguez said he will appeal the decision and will continue fighting for justice to be done.