Belen: Why Won't Chile Let an 11-year-old Rape Victim Get an Abortion?

On July 5, a story broke in Chile about an 11-year-old girl who after several years of sexual abuse by her mother's boyfriend became pregnant.

The girl, now known as Belen, is fourteen weeks along and has sparked a national controversy about the draconian abortion laws that exist in Chile since military dictator Augusto Pinochet abolished the practice in all forms in 1989. Belen came out on live television to state to the world that she indeed wanted to keep her unborn child and that it would be "like having a doll in her arms."

Current President Sebastian Pinera contributed to the outrage after stating that the girl had "depth and maturity, when she said that, despite the pain caused by the man who hurt her, she wanted to have and take care of the baby."

The Pinera administration does not support lifting a ban on abortion in Chile but has asked the Minister of Health to personally look after Belen during her pregnancy.

Unfortunately, due to the restrictive nature of the Chilean government, Belen only has two options. One includes risking her health by taking the baby to term, and the other includes leaving the country to one with more lenient laws for pregnancy termination.

While the administration is concerned with Belen's health, the country itself has remained in a regressive social slump for the last 40 years. Considering that Chile is one of only seven other countries in the word that bans the practice with no exceptions, there is a socio-political impasse when situations such as Belen's arise. Certainly she is not the first one in recent years to face similar circumstances.  

Until Chile can begin to relinquish some of its traditional (and Catholically-driven) social norms, situations like that of Belen will continue to arise and continue to attract attention at home and worldwide. After all, why should Chile, an otherwise prosperous, resilient, and stable country, be an outlier to fellow nations around her who enjoy fewer scandals of this nature, better health, and greater social mobility?

The greatest heartbreak here is beyond and above all else Belen, but also the possible future tragedies that will occur due to oppressive policies opposing women's right to choose.