Chile won’t let pregnant 11-year-old raped by her mother’s boyfriend have an abortion

chile-abortion-e1373206965128She is known as Belén. She is eleven years old and 14 weeks pregnant. She was raped repeatedly by her mother’s boyfriend over the course of two years. The mother claims the relationship that started when her daughter was NINE was consensual. Thankfully, Belén’s grandmother doesn’t see it that way, and she alerted the police to the abuse, which the boyfriend admitted to. There are several reasons even an anti-choicer would think Belén deserves an abortion:

  • She is eleven years old.
  • She is a rape victim.
  • She is the victim of incest.
  • The pregnancy poses a serious health risk to Belen.
  • The health of the fetus is at risk

Belén’s doctors want to terminate. But they are afraid to. Because Belén happens to live in one of the five countries (along with El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Malta) that does not allow abortions under any circumstances. So, tragically, outrageously, and– I wish– unbelievably, Belén is being forced to carry her pregnancy to term in a country controlled by conservative sectors and the Catholic Church. Chile’s abortion laws have regressed. Abortion in Chile used to be legal for medical reasons, but the notoriously authoritarian and torture-loving dictator Augusto Pinochet put an end to that when he took power in a coup in 1973. Though the country is no longer living under dictatorship, it continues to live its legacy and under dictatorial abortion laws. Chile only legalized divorce in 2004. Chile’s president, the conservative Sebastián Piñera opposes reforming Chile’s abortion laws. And last year the senate voted against bills that would have legalized abortion in the case of rape, a nonviable fetus, and for the health and safety of the woman.

This may sound similar. In another extremely conservative and Catholic Latin American country,  El Salvador, doctors wanted wanted to terminate the pregnancy of a patient whose health and life were at risk and whose fetus had Anencephaly, a severe and lethal birth defect in which the brain or part of the brain is missing. Thanks to the international media attention and pressure, El Salvador ultimately allowed Beatriz, who is 22 and suffers from lupus and almost died during her first pregnancy, to have an abortion. But they claimed the abortion was a delivery and removed the fetus through a c-section, which is much more dangerous than the D&C Beatrice’s doctors wanted to perform. Or you may be thinking of another extremely Catholic country in Europe, where a woman was denied an abortion of her nonviable fetus because Ireland “is a Catholic country.” In this case, Savita Halappanavar died.

We have to make sure to raise our voices in this case as well and support Chilean campaigns to reform abortion laws. And there is some good news. Former president Michele Bachelet and survivor of torture under Pinochet, who is likely to win the presidency once again, is committed to changing legalizing abortion, at least in the cases of rape and for health reasons, as she tweeted on Friday, the day the story of Belen broke.


Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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  • Julia

    How is she 14 months pregnant? I understand that she is beyond young which would certainly make some serious complications, but 14 months? Is that possible? (This is an honest question.)

  • carolina

    It get’s worse, she wants to have the baby. She now lives solely with her grandmother, since her mother defended her boyfriend and now has to maintain a legal distance from the child. I don’t about your country, but in mine, the elder struggle to live by on their pensions, let alone maintain a child and her baby. She will certainly have complications due to her young age, and will have to bear poverty along with her grandmother. However, can you force her to abort, even if the laws were on her side? I wish one day women in my country and around the world could rest in apropriate and efective legislations to ensure well being in every aspect of a womans life, but I don’t think that day is coming shortly.
    In relation to elections coming up November, its true Michele Bachelet is running for presidency, and may have done a thing or two for women in this country, but this was at the expense of our economy, our environment and to poor judgement that leades to hundreds of people dying in the earthquake because she was to afraid to let the militia aid (FYI, this was done when Salvador Allende’s was in the presidency). So be careful to judge a book by it’s cover, I certainly won’t.

  • Alberto Cox

    I can’t begin to describe how pissed we (the sensible people in Chile) are at this whole situation. Truth is, the majority of Chileans support abortion in cases of rape and/or when the life of the mother is at risk. Truth is, a majority of catholic Chileans couldn’t care less what the church commands, there being a strong progressive and leftist community within it. The reason we are tied to this unreasonable laws and why conservatism is so powerful, more than 20 years after the dictatorship, draws down to a single, hellish obstacle: Our Constitution.

    Before the dictatorship, the Constitution was more or less similar to Continental Europe’s tenets. But during the dictatorship, after a totally legitimate and clean referendum, the most diabolic Constitution ever conceived was imposed, the full extent of it was only felt once democracy came around. Its cornerstones are, on the one hand, unreasonable and impossible quorums are needed to pass constitutional changes, on the other, the seats in both chambers are allotted through some spectacular gerrymandering, while being elected through the binominal system, which, long story short, could allow a candidate with the third majority in its district to take the seat of the second or even first, provided his listmate’s votes and his double the other ones. It is very hard to understand, but it provides for overrepresentation of the far-right party, the UDI (imagine a Catholic tea-party with even more money), which happened to be founded by the one who devised this law. We are talking 4-7 additional seats, which in a total of 120, means a lot.

    The argument behind it is “the preservation of national stability”. Effectively, it creates a parliamentary tie between everything centre to left (a 60% or more actually) and the two rights, which has caused the left-wing parties to become indolent or comlicit, avoiding any discussion of change… until the social movements begun to rock the boat from 2011 onwards. Michelle Bachelet has promised substantial changes to the Constitution, even toying with the Constituent Assembly, a growing demand. But then she does the Obama and begins to yellow and take back, she is still way more cautious than the citizenry. Pretty much, is because of all of this background that we are still stuck with the most idiotic abortion laws, we only had divorce since 2004, the Public system is a mess, and the wealth distribution is… well, what the US is aiming for.

    But who cares, as long as we have Aston Martin dealers, more tablets sold per capita than anywhere else in Latin America, and we are close to the US$20.000 GDP per capita! Yay!