“Like having a doll”: That was how an 11-year-old Chilean girl who is pregnant after being raped by her mother’s boyfriend said she thinks it will be to have a child.
The girl made her remarks during a television interview on Monday. She also said that she was “happy” to be having a child: “I’m going to love the baby very much, even though it comes from that man who hurt me.”
Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera proclaimed that the girl’s remarks show “depth and maturity … despite the pain caused by the man who raped her, she wanted to have and take care of her baby.” He has called on his health minister to personally oversee the girl’s health.
Psychologists in Chile have made it clear that the country’s president has completely failed to grasp the situation. As Forensic psychologist Giorgio Agostini says,
“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.”
Abortion is banned in Chile and the girl’s case has sparked a debate about changing a law that dates back to General Augusto Pinochet’s authoritarian rule.
A presidential candidate from Chile’s left-leaning opposition party, Michelle Bachelet, has said that she supports a campaign to allow abortion in cases of rape and when a woman’s — a girl’s — health is at risk.
El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Chile, Honduras, Haiti and Suriname also ban abortion completely, even if the life of the mother or fetus may be at risk.
In many Latin American countries terminating a pregnancy remains a criminal act, with dire consequences for women. Twelve percent of all maternal deaths in Latin American and the Caribbean are the result of unsafe abortions, with women often dying from septic shock or from the perforation of their internal organs.
As such, Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest regional rate of unsafe abortions (.pdf) — 31 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 – in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4.2 million unsafe abortions occur every year in Latin American and the Caribbean.
However, pro-choice advocates in Latin America have been able to turn the tide by emphasizing that abortion is a public health issue, says Annie Kelly in the Guardian.
Colombia started to allow abortion in certain cases in 2006.
In 2007, Mexico City passed a law allowing any woman to have access to an abortion up to twelve weeks into a pregnancy.
A 2012 supreme court decision in Argentina said that a rape victim cannot be prevented from having access to an abortion.
Uruguay became the first country to partially decriminalize abortion in 2012, by allowing abortion in the first 14 weeks in cases of rape and, even at a later stage of pregnancy, when a woman’s health is at risk.
Sadly, not only politicians like Chile’s Pineda but also medical professionals have posed huge obstacles in enabling Latin American women to have access to safe abortions.
Even though the capital city of Mexico changed its own law, 31 Mexican states subsequently passed strict anti-abortion legislation defining a fertilized egg as a person with the right to legal protection.
Maria Mejia, executive director of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (Catholics in favor of the right to decide) in Mexico City, tells the Guardian that 85 percent of the gynecologists in Mexico City’s public hospitals call themselves conscientious objectors of the legislation and anti-choice groups have deliberately sought to influence health professionals.
Indeed, “whole hospitals in Mexico City [have said] they were refusing to offer abortions to any woman on moral grounds.”
The consequences of denying access to safe abortions falls especially hard on poor, rural women. Pro-choice advocates say they must reach out to them, and to the health professionals and hospitals they seek medical care from.
The 11-year-old girl in question here iss from a “remote southern city,” Puerto Montt. Not only is she now pregnant by her mother’s boyfriend, it has emerged she has been raped by him for two years prior to this. He has now been arrested but it was the girl’s maternal grandmother who reported the abuse to the police. Her mother, on the other hand, has defended her boyfriend, saying that the relationship was consensual.
This statement has, as it should anywhere, shocked many in Chile. How many more girls have to suffer what the 11-year-old girl has — how many more women have to die in botched abortions — before Chile changes its antiquated laws?
Photo from Thinkstock
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