An 11-year-old Chilean girl who was raped by her mother’s boyfriend cannot get an abortion, despite the fact that doctors warned the pregnancy poses a threat to her health. Abortion under any circumstances has been illegal in the highly conservative country since 1973.
Her mother’s boyfriend confessed to sexually abusing the girl, who is 14 weeks pregnant, during the last two years. He is now in police custody.
Now that the girl’s case has been made public, those who oppose the ban are standing behind her and asking that the ban make exceptions in the case of women who are raped or when the mother’s health is at risk. A petition was even started online to make exceptions to the ban.
"The Chilean elite is very conservative and this has had an influence in Congress," said Chilean political scientist Patricio Navia. "Laws, therefore, change at a much slower pace than the rest of Chilean society. Because society is much less conservative than it was 15 or 20 years ago."
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Chile is one of six countries in the world, including Vatican City, which has a total ban on abortion. The ban was instated by Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, and in the last year the current conservative administration has shot down three bills that would modify the ban.
“It’s the first online petition I’ve signed in my life, but I think this case really deserves it," Chilean web designer Eduardo Hernandez, 30, told the Associated Press. "I hope this case serves as precedent to have a serious discussion about abortion. 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.”
Front-running in the country’s upcoming election, former president Michele Bachelet said on Twitter that she plans to work to decriminalize abortion for rape victims if elected.
Last year, a 31-year-old woman died in Ireland after being denied an abortion in a Catholic hospital, although numerous doctors confirmed that an abortion would have saved her life. Savita Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant before her death, was allegedly told by a senior midwife at an Irish hospital that they could not terminate her dying baby because “it's a Catholic thing.”