In 2017, a 19-year-old woman arrived in severe pain at the hospital where Argentine doctor Leandro Rodríguez Lastra was working. She was 23 weeks pregnant and had ingested misoprostol, illegally administered by the La Revuelta (“The Revolt”) organization well beyond the outer limit of 10 weeks of pregnancy for use of the drug.

Using his professional judgment, Rodríguez stabilized the woman by stopping the chemical abortion process, thus saving both mother and child. When the baby reached six and a half months’ gestation, the medical board decided to deliver the child by cesarean section and the baby was placed for adoption.

In 2019, for preventing the completion of the abortion, Rodríguez was given a one-year-and-two-months suspended sentence in prison, and his license to practice medicine was revoked for two years and four months, ending Jan. 30.

Speaking with “EWTN Noticias,” EWTN’s Spanish-language news program, Rodríguez explained what had happened that led to the unprecedented sentence: In 2017, he was on duty “at the public hospital where I worked, in the Argentine city of Cipolletti in the Argentine Patagonia, where I received a patient in generally poor condition due to an advanced pregnancy, and I made the decision to stop the process of giving birth prematurely that was going on and improve the patient’s state of health.”

“This was interpreted by the justice system, or by the Rio Negro Judiciary, as having overridden the patient’s will to terminate the pregnancy, and so in 2019 I was convicted, and this sentence has just been completed,” he said.

This time, Rodríguez said, “has been very significant,” beyond the notoriety of his case, due to the commitment to be “a kind of example of what can happen if one does not submit to the arbitrary decisions of the powers that be.”

This experience led him to be “even more committed to caring for life, the protection of the life of the unborn child, the protection of women,” the doctor said.

Rodríguez said that in the eyes of the court, his patient was the victim in this case, “since she had been a victim of rape, she was portrayed by all the media, especially the local media, as the great victim in all this, the one who had gotten the worst of it.”

However, he pointed out, “once the trial was over, the sentence issued, this woman was abandoned and no one else cared for her; unfortunately she had to seek help” to survive.

These facts, the doctor said, make it clear “that those arguments that were put forward at the time, saying that this was for the protection of women, were absolutely false.”

“Those arguments, speaking of defending rights, were absolutely false, and the only thing they tried to do was destroy the life of a child who is now about to turn 7 years old, who is happy, with an adoptive family that is taking care of him and giving him the future that any of us deserve. They couldn’t do anything about that,” he said.

“The child is alive, the woman who was a victim of all this is fine, she’s healthy; therefore in that aspect I am satisfied because life triumphed, truth triumphed, beyond the injustices that [I] suffered,” he said.

The doctor anticipates that he will continue working in the private sector, as “it’s difficult for me to go back to public hospitals,” he said. However, he reiterated that his commitment to life “is unwavering,” and if he is faced with a case similar to the one that led to his conviction, “in the same case I will act in precisely the same way.”

“When I was sentenced, and before I was sentenced, they looked for a kind of remorse in me, or another message,” he recalled. “No. The message is the same and with more and more conviction: Life must be defended; that’s not up for discussion,” he stressed, telling doctors that “this is our moment, the time to assert our convictions, our moral convictions, that are not negotiable.”

“Conscientious objection is that fundamental right that should exonerate us. We should not give it up and we have to defend it today more than ever,” he said.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

From Catholic News Agency