Page last updated at 22:46 GMT, Friday, 6 March 2009

Lula 'rues' Church abortion move

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
President Lula said the doctors had been trying to save the girl's life

The Brazilian president has criticised a Catholic archbishop for excommunicating several people who helped a young girl have an abortion.

The nine-year-old child underwent the abortion of twins she conceived after alleged abuse by her stepfather.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, himself a Catholic, said he regretted what he described as the cleric's deeply conservative attitude.

Brazil only permits abortions in cases of rape or health risks to the mother.

Doctors said the girl's case met both these conditions, but the Catholic Church said the law of God was above any human law.

In this case, the medical profession was more right than the Church
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

The Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, said the excommunication would apply to the child's mother and the doctors, but not to the girl because of her age.

But his actions were criticised by President Lula, who said: "As a Christian and a Catholic I deeply regret that a bishop of the Catholic Church has such a conservative attitude.

"The doctors did what had to be done: save the life of a girl nine years old.

"In this case, the medical profession was more right than the Church," AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

The girl, who lives in the north-eastern state of Pernambuco, was allegedly sexually assaulted over a number of years by her stepfather, possibly since she was six.

The abortion was carried out on Wednesday.

The fact that the girl was pregnant with twins was only discovered after she was taken to hospital in Pernambuco complaining of stomach pains.

Her stepfather was arrested last week, allegedly as he tried to escape to another region of the country.

He is also suspected of abusing the girl's physically handicapped older sister who is now 14.

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