Case of pregnant 11-year-old rape victim reignites Chile's abortion debate

In the wake of the news, many Chileans are urging their government to lift its absolute ban on abortion

Published July 7, 2013 1:47PM (EDT)

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera  (Fernando Vergara, AP)
Chilean President Sebastián Piñera (Fernando Vergara, AP)

The case of a pregnant 11-year old girl who was raped by her mother's partner has reignited a push to legalize abortion in Chile.

State television reported on Friday that the girl, identified only as “Belen,” is 14 weeks pregnant. Doctors say the pregnancy is high-risk, but abortion is illegal under all circumstances in the socially conservative country.

Many Chileans voiced outrage over the prohibition through an online petition to lift the ban on abortion in cases of medical emergency, as reported by the Associated Press:

"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," said Eduardo Hernandez, a 30-year-old web designer.

"It's the first online petition I've signed in my life, but I think this case really deserves it," Hernandez said. "We should have a law. I hope this case serves as precedent to have a serious discussion about abortion."

Reacting to the news, Michelle Bachelet -- Chile's first female president who, after a hiatus as the inaugural head of the United Nations agency UN Women, is now running for a second term -- tweeted that her campaign "has a plan to decriminalize therapeutic abortion in cases of rape.”

Marco Enríquez Ominami, another presidential hopeful, is also pushing for decriminalization, tweeting: “In front of this horrible crime, the rape of an 11-year-old child, I am calling for a united country and for the candidates to call for decriminalization.”

Last year, the Chilean Senate rejected three measures to ease the restriction against abortion in all circumstances, and Chile's current President Sebastián Piñera is a fierce opponent of abortion rights.

h/t Santiago Times

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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