Pro-life doctor’s medical license reinstated after he was suspended for refusing to do late-term abortion
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February 25, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) -- Argentinian Dr. Leandro Rodríguez Lastra, a pro-life gynecologist whose registration had been suspended by the Ministry of Health in the Entre Ríos province because he refused to perform a late-term abortion, has been allowed to resume his medical practice after litigation.
His doctor’s license was withdrawn after he was convicted in Río Negro in March 2020 and deprived of his right to be employed in public institutions. Local health authorities had gone one step further, making it impossible for him to continue in private practice.
Because of his objection in 2017, the life of a baby was saved at 23 weeks' gestation after the little boy’s mother was refused a legal abortion that she sought on the grounds that she had been raped. Under the law, she had no obligation to prove the rape.
The abortion had already been refused in neighboring towns when she came to Cipolletti, where Rodriguez Lastra headed the gynecology department of the public hospital; he had not previously made himself known as a conscientious objector.
She came to Cipolletti alleging that she had been given Oxaprost (Misoprostol) by a women's rights group in order to induce abortion. She asked for the abortion to be completed. Rodriguez Lastra considered her at risk of a serious and even life-threatening infection and administered anti-contraction medication. He was also unable to determine whether she had in fact taken abortion-inducing pills.
There was no dilation or bleeding. He judged her to be about five months along and in no condition to receive abortion pills at that stage (chemical abortion is linked to complications for the mother after 10 or 12 weeks of pregnancy).
The woman remained hospitalized with her full consent, according to Rodriguez Lastra, to await a Cesarean as soon as her baby had every chance of surviving the operation. At 7 1/2 months, the baby was born in good health.
Abortion activists picked up the case at this point, accusing the doctor of having used “dilatory tactics,” including psychiatric screening, in order to avoid performing the abortion.
Health minister Sonia Velázquez signed a resolution on February 11 that revoked the decision by which the doctor was scrapped from the official register of practitioners as a “precautionary measure.” The new “Resolution 416” tacitly acknowledged that Rodriguez Lastra’s conviction was not final and that his license was pulled without proper reason.
Resolution 416 came Tuesday, seven days after Rodriguez Lastra had filed an appeal against the decision not to register him in the Entre Rios province, where he had opened a private practice in December.
Leandro Jacobi, the doctor’s legal counsel, called the victory “bittersweet” because no reason was given as to why his client had initially not been allowed to work in the province.
“We would have liked to have received an answer to the appeal. Looking at the technical aspects, in the same way that they suspended the registration ex officio – in our view illegally – they also reinstated it ex officio, leaving our appeal in abstracto, because supposedly by solving the matter at issue they were not obliged to answer it,” he told local media outlet El Entre Ríos.
“The response was too long in coming, to the point where we had to file an appeal. At the center of the case, there is a patrimonial damage caused by not being able to work for more than two months in the province,” he added.
Rodriguez Lastra may now opt to continue suing the state because of the arbitrary character of the suspension and the reinstatement of his licence, together with failure to respond within legal deadlines. According to Jacobi, “in suspending his registration, the Ministry had proof that he did not have a conviction of medical disqualification,” meaning that if he is definitively condemned in the refused abortion case, that would only prevent Rodriguez Lastra from working in public health services because of his “failure to do his duty as a public functionary.”
The case was a clear infringement on the rights of conscience that are guaranteed by the Argentinian constitution.
His plea for cessation in the Entre Rios province was rejected in December on the grounds that his arguments were factual and evidence-related and had already been revised by the appeal court. But the Supreme Court of Justice of Argentina can still admit the case.
At the appeals court, one of the judges signed an opinion saying Rodriguez Lastra had been guilty of “gender-based and obstetric violence” because he did not respect the woman’s “will to decide about her body and her health.”
Another judge wrote, “Ignoring a woman’s voice, ignoring her vital needs, subjugating reproductive rights, devastating the psyche and enslaving the body in order to force pregnancy after a rape, means denying the victim’s status as a subject of law and leads to the incarnation of gender violence in its most painful form.”
Despite this obviously ideological reasoning, the provincial Supreme Court decided not to review the case. Among Rodriguez Lastra’s factual claims was the point that he probably saved the woman from harm, judging her health and life would be put at risk because she was already more that five months along.
Dr. Rodriguez Lastra has since made himself known as a pro-life doctor, leading rallies and making public statements. The left-wing media are presenting his victory as that of an “anti-rights” doctor.
At 2:30 p.m. Friday in the Círculo Católico Obrero of Paraná, Dr. Rodríguez Lastra will present his book “Cuando salvar vidas se convirtió en delito” (When saving lives became a crime).