Chilean President Sebastian Pinera set off a social media firestorm after saying an 11-year-old girl shows her “depth and maturity” after she said she will go through with the birth of a baby that was conceived when she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend.
The girl cannot get an abortion in Chile, even though doctors have warned that the pregnancy poses a threat to her health. Abortions, even for medical reasons and in the case of rape, have been illegal since 1973 in one of Latin America's most socially conservative nations.
"I've asked the health minister to personally look after the [girl's] health," Pinera said on Tuesday. "She's 14 weeks pregnant, and yesterday 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."
The girl's mother's boyfriend confessed to sexually abusing the girl during the last two years and he is now in police custody.
Experts note that the girl's life is at risk and do not feel that she is prepared to make a decision about her pregnancy.
"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," said Giorgio Agostini, a forensic psychologist who has worked on dozens on child sex abuse cases. "It's very likely that she is saying that 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. It's a subjective view that is not based on any scientific reasoning to support it."
Former President Michelle Bachelet, who is the frontrunner in the upcoming presidential elections, favors legalizing abortion is cases of rape or risks to the health of the pregnant woman or the child.
"She's a girl who needs to be protected and therefore I think a therapeutic abortion, in this case because of rape, would be in order," Bachelet told local Radio ADN.
Only Cuba, Uruguay and some local governments make early abortions accessible to all women in Latin America. Many countries in the region outlaw abortion in all circumstances.