The life threatening pregnancy of an 11-year-old rape victim is sparking debate around abortion in the socially conservative country of Chile. The girl is fourteen weeks into the pregnancy, and doctors are reporting that both she and her fetus are at high risk. The pregnancy is the result of rape by her mother’s partner. The man, who has confessed to repeatedly raping the young girl for two years, is now in police custody.
Until 1973 Chile allowed limited abortions due to medical reasons, but during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet all abortions were outlawed. Today the socially conservative Latin American country still strictly prohibits abortions under any circumstances despite legislative attempts to challenge the harsh restriction. This past year, three bills that could have loosened the ban,allowing exceptions for medical reasons or rape were rejected in the Chilean Senate. But in light of this case, many Chileans are contemplating the need for change. Citizens of Chile took to social media sites Friday to express outrage, and some even started an online campaign advocating for different amendments to the law. Eduardo Hernandez, a 30-year-old web designer stated, “When I heard about this little girl my first reaction was to support abortion because I think it’s the best option in this case.” He continued, “It’s the first online petition I’ve signed in my life, but I think this case really deserves it. We should have a law. I hope this case serves as precedent to have a serious discussion about abortion.”
The case comes on the heels of several others in which women with life threatening conditions were denied the right to terminate the pregnancy. Most recently, a woman in El Salvador who was dying of kidney failure had to undergo an early C-Section because she was denied the right to terminate her unviable pregnancy. Ireland made international headlines last year when a woman died after she was denied an abortion while miscarrying. In 2012, a 16 year old woman with cancer in the Dominican Republic was denied an abortion and not given chemotherapy because it would harm her fetus.
Chile is one of six countries in the world that has such extreme abortion restrictions, where terminations are not granted in order to save the mother or the fetus.