Chile Denies Abortion for 11-Year-Old Rape Victim

169321534_a92ed7a31d_zAt age 11, Belén is 14 weeks pregnant. Her pregnancy, which occurred after she was repeatedly raped over the past two years by her mother’s partner, has been deemed by medical professionals as a danger to her health. Despite the risks involved for both her and the fetus, Belén has no choice but to see the pregnancy through  because she lives in Puerto Montt, Chile—a country where abortion is banned without exception.

Abortions were legalized in cases where the mother’s life was in danger by the Chilean Health Code in 1967, only to be outlawed in 1989 under Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Pinochet has not been in office for decades, but his abortion policy is upheld by current President Sebastián Piñera, who shows no signs of changing the law.

In a television interview with Canal 13 on Monday, Belén spoke out against her mother’s claims that the rapes were consensual, but said that she will happily keep the baby—”it will be like [having] a doll”. Piñera publicly addressed her comments and her situation for the first time the following day on a trip to the city of Coquimbo:

She surprised us all with words showing depth and maturity when she said that, despite the pain caused by the man who raped her, she wanted to have and take care of her baby.

Piñera has been battered with criticism from health experts, politicians and citizens across the country who regard his statements as backwards and misguided. Based on his experience working with child survivors of sexual abuse, forensic psychologist Giorgio Agostini said that, at age 11, Belén could not understand what carrying a pregnancy to term involves:

At that age the girl doesn’t have a capacity of discernment; not even at age 14 would she have the mental and emotional capacity to discern this. It’s very likely that she is saying she wants to have the baby like a living doll. We’ve seen this in other investigations. So what the president is saying doesn’t get close to the psychological truth of an 11-year-old-girl.

Agostini’s views on the case are backed even by even staunch anti-abortion advocates who consider Belén’s case to be a necessary exception to Chile’s intransigent policies.

Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and former executive director of UN Women, told Radio ADN that Belén needed protection and that “a therapeutic abortion, in this case because of rape, would be in order.” Bachelet, who is running for a second presidential term in the upcoming November elections, has said that if elected she plans to legalize abortion for rape victims and if a pregnancy poses health risks to the mother or child. Not a fully pro-choice stand, but Chile’s political climate has remained unwaveringly conservative on this front since Pinochet’s dictatorship. Just last year, the Chilean Senate shot down three bills that would have created exceptions to the absolute ban on abortion.

However, the harrowing details of Belén’s case have brought many to action, and will perhaps bolster support for a bill introduced this year by Chilean senators. Modeled after the three unsuccessful bills from 2012, the proposal would legalize abortion in cases of rape, endangerment to the mother and child and in cases of a malformed fetus.

Accessing safe and legal abortions continues to be difficult throughout Latin America: They’re allowed without restrictions only in Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico and Uruguay. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 47,000 women’s lives worldwide are claimed every year by unsafe abortions, largely in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, and millions are injured by the unsafe procedures.

Photo of Chilean President Sebastián Piñera from Flickr user mabel flores under license from Creative Commons 2.0

Comments

  1. Malformed is a hurtful and stigmatizing term for disabled fetuses, who are aborted — often late stage and fully viable and with great pressure from medical professionals–in huge percentages in our ableist culture.

  2. I am also not impressed by people who claim to be prochoice yet would take this choice away from the young woman whose body is involved–and almost certainly decry the same lack of choice in a parent or doctor that prevented an abortion that a young woman wanted. It should be her choice either way and, certainly, Chile should liberalize its laws to make that possible.

    • victoria says:

      A young woman? Not even close-shes a child!! Your views are mind-boggling.

    • Logical Thinking says:

      You do realize that if the child is born, there is a high chance of death for the mother and child? And even if the child is born succesfully, he/she will have many health problems.

  3. Charles Huckelbury says:

    Interesting that Chile would come under fire for its restrictive abortion laws. Texas, among other states, recently enacted a law that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. Belen is 14 weeks into her pregnancy, the result of repeated rapes. She is eleven years old, and if she were a citizen of Texas, in another six weeks, she would be forced to carry the pregnancy to term. I cannot begin to comprehend the mindset of any individual who would compel an eleven-year-old child to give birth under any conditions, especially after a rape, but following the Texas legislature’s passing of the 20-weeks bill, Governor Rick Perry stated, “Today the Texas legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life.” Unfortunately, that final step did not include protecting the lives of children like Belen.

    • Melissa says:

      No one compelled this child, this is NBC style omission, she (Belen) chose to keep her child…as is her right to do, doesn’t Pro-choice cover the choice to not terminate as well? Or are 11 year olds only mature enough to choose abortion and plan-B but not mature enough to chose to keep a baby?

  4. ben Waechter says:

    Just like to say but did you care about what the girl wants. The girl has stated that she wishes to keep her child. The legislature is not the problem, even if the legislature was to be taken away the only way you could get her to have an abortion would be to force her into it. Not only that but she would see you as a murder for the rest of her life and would undoubtedly hate you forever. Do, not try to force your political agendas on this poor girl by trying to make her have an abortion.

  5. Maria Cinencia says:

    Very misleading headline. Chile hasn’t denied the child anything she is choosing to carry this to term which also makes the Texas comment moot – bottom line this girl doesn’t want an abortion. Why can’t that be respected. Furthermore, Puerto Rico is an incorporated territory of the United States so your laws are their laws – not representative of he people there. Guyana is a former Dutch/British colony and part of the Anglophone Caribbean NEVER considered part of Latin America. Uruguay just passed very mild abortion permissions which are being appealed and probably will change once the current socialist administration is voted out of power. That leaves Cuba standing alone, where, to their great shame 8 out of 10 pregnancies end in abortion. Bachelet has already softened her hard-core views since her tenure at UNWOMEN and don’t be surprised if she continues to do so – Chileans in general do not look favorably at her pro-abortion views.

  6. Things happen every day. If she’s mature enough to raise it I’m sure she will have support.

    NO being young age does not mean you can’t be mature enough to have and raise children, and don’t include 14 year olds in your blanket comments. My mother married and raised children just fine, first one at 13 and myself at almost 15. I myself at 14. It just depends on the culture you are raised in- for my culture it meant girls were cooking cleaning running house and raising kids by 13 or 14. Boys already working and aspiring to be the financial support for family. And school is stressed and attended. Chauvinist culture? That’s how most cultures and mindsets usually are anyways- but in this case the idea “women can if they want” applies, but for the most part gender roles ARE defined.

    She’s so young and its unfair but if she will keep the child for whatever reason I’m sure she can and will show up our American teen “mothers” for the most part. She has a culture and support groups to help her.

    • Logical Thinking says:

      She’s obviously mentally mature enough. She’s happy about the baby and compares it to a doll. A human baby to a doll. Very mature.

  7. Gwenfrewi says:

    I understand that Chile has one of the best records of any country in the world on maternal health – despite its strict anti-abortion laws. (Despite them or because of them?)

    And surely nobody outside China is proposing to abort a pregnant girl who does not want to be given an abortion.

  8. Stop pressuring this child to have an abortion. She wants the baby. Did you know that 3-1 rape victims choose NOT to abort their child? To abort a baby after rape just adds trauma to trauma. She has a chance to bring a beautiful, innocent life into the world. She can either do so, via therapeutic abortion, and instead of bringing life, she would just be complicit, or coerced into an act of death and murder. Or she can carry to term, and give this child a chance at LIFE!
    Either way that baby will be coming out of her womb, dead, or alive. To coerce her into an abortion she does NOT want, is to impose your beliefs on her, her body, and to cause a trauma equal to, if not more damaging, than the first one. As a woman, I am sad to think other women think this way, and think they are doing this girl a service by pressuring her.

  9. I’m sorry *disservice*
    Women are doing this girl, Belen, a disservice by pressuring her.

  10. Once again the victim is put on trial and dragged through the media what about the despicable rapist is he in jail?

  11. Sabrina Rivera says:

    She’s 11!!! I get your pro-life views but come on.
    Yes WOMEN should be able to choose whether or not they would want to carry a baby to full term in the case of rape, but this is a child herself. Her own mother is not even supporting her in this, basically saying that the girl asked for it. Horrible excuse for a mother.

    She can’t even work. How is she supposed to care for this baby? A baby is not a doll and it is so sad that none of you, nor the idiot president of the country she lives in, see in that statement that this is a little girl who experienced something traumatic enabled by her own mother who did not do her job in protecting her and allowed her boyfriend to abuse her repeatedly. I have an 11 year old daughter and even though she is intelligent and mature, NO WAY is she ready to be a mother. No child that age should have to. And many doctors are saying that Belen and her baby would most likely not survive the pregnancy.

  12. The Catholic Church dominates Chile. I would vote with my pocketbook. Don’t support a country that supports rapists and the females and political institutions- the Catholic Church is a political institution that supports rapists. Lots of orher countries in the Southern hemisphere to visit

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