Girl raped, needs life-saving abortion, but can’t because every life is sacred. Um. Wait.

This happened again. From Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress:

An 11-year-old Chilean girl who has become pregnant from rape is renewing a contentious debate over abortion in the conservative Catholic country, where the medical procedure is illegal under all circumstances. Doctors have warned that continuing the pregnancy will be dangerous for the 11-year-old’s health, as well as for the health of her fetus. But, under Chile’s total abortion ban, she is forced to continue it anyway.

The girl’s mother’s boyfriend confessed to raping the girl and is in custody. That’s good at least, but the effects of his horrific actions remain.

Chile is one of six countries in the world to have such stringent laws against abortion. One of those six happens to be Vatican City, which is not a place you want to be compared to, in terms of morality.

Culp-Ressler points out how this is one of many recent cases, which views a woman’s life and health as lower to that of fetus (or “unborn child”). Note that the child will die anyway in many of these cases, but still: Life above all, even if it means its death apparently. Well done, Catholic “medicine”.

In El Salvador, a dying 22-year-old woman was recently denied the right to a life-saving abortion even though her fetus was missing a brain and had no chance of surviving outside of the womb. In Ireland, a 31-year-old woman died after being denied an abortion in a Catholic hospital, and numerous doctors have confirmed that being allowed to terminate her pregnancy would have saved her life. In the Dominican Republican, a 16-year-old pregnant teen died after her doctors refused to give her chemotherapy treatment because it may have harmed her fetus. And across the entire globe, an estimated 47,000 women die each year because they lack access to safe, legal abortion care.

Religious hampering of medical policies – or rather its poisoning – needs to end. There is no good reason to have people – of all ages, from all places – die painfully because of religion, custom, or tradition. The question is: What can we do? Should we “interfere” if they’re only hurting themselves?

UPDATE: “Themselves” can be defined as, say, the religious community, country, etc. Perhaps one could argue that an 11 year old isn’t part of their community because she hasn’t reached a stage of being old enough to choose to stay, then. However, they could reply that we “outsides” can’t dictate what makes up their community. I think there is a solution (premised on intervention of children, regardless of culture, for the child’s health benefit if it can be scientifically shown… as it can in this case), but naturally, things get complicated.


  1. Pen says

    We should we “interfere” if they’re only hurting themselves?

    I think you mean ‘Should we interfere…’ This clearly isn’t a case of people choosing to hurt themselves. It’s people who belong to a particular social system and find themselves under its authority – as we all do – and theirs is hurting them. And since it’s a different social system from ours, nominally, we have no power or authority over the situation.

    It’s part of a much broader question of the circumstances and methods by which its acceptable to try to influence societies other than your own, whether you accept being subject to those same means of influence in return, the impact they have on democracy and cultural autonomy. Clearly all kinds of attempts to exercise that kind of power are quite popular: boycotts, conditional aid, financial and practical support of internal groups seeking change. Obviously, they cut both ways. During the Bush administration, the US campaigned against abortion in other nations using conditional aid.

    • Tauriq Moosa says

      Great points. I’ve updated it a little but your points remain. (Thanks for pointing out typo!)

  2. gwen says

    I remember (as a young nurse) a young woman coming in for a therapeutic abortion. It was a wanted baby, but halfway through the pregnancy, the doctors found that the woman had an aggressive uterine cancer, and she needed immediate treatment to survive. Nowhere in that picture was a living infant. I couldn’t believe, that rather than treat her with compassion and sympathy, the number of nurses treating her–in this most difficult and sad situation–like she was a piece of shit.

    This is one reason I am rabidly pro-choice.

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