The conservative president of Chile praised an 11-year-old girl's "depth and maturity" for continuing a pregnancy caused by repeated rapes by her mother's partner. According to the Associated Press, President Sebastian Pinera made the remarks to the press in an attempt to explain why the victim is not being offered the option to terminate the pregnancy.
"I've asked the health minister to personally look after the (girl's) health," Pinera said. "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."
Abortions have been illegal in Chile since the reign of dictator Augustin Pinochet. Chile is one of the most conservative nations in Latin America. All abortions, including those caused by rape or incest, are illegal there.
The 11-year-old girl herself gave a TV interview in which her face was obscured. In it, she said, "It will be like having a doll in my arms. I'm going to love the baby very much, even though it comes from that man who hurt me."
The man who raped the girl has been arrested and confessed to serially sexually abusing her over the course of two years, since she was nine. Her mother shocked the country when she defended her partner, saying the relationship with her daughter was consensual. The rapes and pregnancy were reported to the authorities by the girl's maternal grandmother.
The family lives in the remote town of Puerto Monte. Pinera couched his refusal to allow the girl an abortion in the name of preventing risks to her health. Experts say, however, that there are greater risks to the girl in carrying the child to term.
Giorgio Agostini, a forensic psychologist who specializes in child sex abuse cases, told the AP, "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. 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."
Agostini said that Pinera doesn't know what he's talking about in praising the girl's readiness to be a mother. "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 Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said that the girl should be allowed to abort the pregnancy. In an interview with Radio ADN, she said, "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."
Most Latin American countries ban all abortions outright. Only Cuba and Uruguay offer women early abortions on demand. Liberal Chilean politicians tried three times in 2012 to have a rape and incest exception included in the country's anti-abortion laws, but were overruled.
[image of Pres. Sebastian Pinera via Gobierno de Chile's Flickr Photostream, Creative Commons licensed]