Latest News & Current Events

Chile Rape Case Ignites Abortion Debate

The case of a pregnant 11-year old who was raped in Chile by her mother's partner has set off a national debate about abortion in the country. Chileans were outraged Friday after state TV reported that the vcitm is 14 weeks pregnant and was raped repeatedly over two years.

Doctors say the life of the young woman and that of the fetus are at high risk. But in Chile, ending the pregnancy is not an option.Chile allowed abortions for medical reasons until they were outlawed in 1973 by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. The current government of conservative President Sebastian Pinera has opposed any loosening of the prohibition.

Many Chileans were venting outrage on social media Friday. Some started an online campaign to demand legalization of abortion in cases of rape or health risks for the mother.

The Chilean Senate rejected three bills last year that would have eased the absolute ban on abortions.

One of the bills would have permitted abortion if two doctors said it was needed because of risks to a mother's life or other medical reasons, such as a fetus with low chances of survival. Another one of the measures that was rejected would have allowed abortion in the event of rape.

Forty years after a brutal dictatorship, Chile remains firmly conservative in social matters. It legalized divorce in 2004, becoming one of the last nations in the world to grant married couples that right.

Former president Michelle Bachelet, the frontrunner in the Nov. 17 presidential elections, favors legalizing abortion in cases of rape or risks to the health of the mother or the child. She spent the past several years heading the U.N. agency for women.

Her opponent, former Economy Minister Pablo Longueira, was close to Pinochet. He opposes abortion and the so-called day-after pill.

Daniel Alvarado, a prosecutor for the public ministry, told state TV that the case of the pregnant 11-year-old would be treated as a rape in any circumstance because at that age a person "doesn't have maturity to consent to a sexual relationship within law."

In Latin America, only Cuba, Uruguay and some local governments make early abortions accessible to all women.


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