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Raped 11-year-old stirs an abortion debate in Chile

By Elwyn Lopez, CNN
updated 2:33 PM EDT, Thu July 11, 2013
The President of Chile Sebastian Pinera in his official visit to El Salvador on June 4, 2013.
The President of Chile Sebastian Pinera in his official visit to El Salvador on June 4, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Belen" is an 11-year-old rape victim who became pregnant
  • She says she will have the baby; abortion is illegal in Chile
  • The president called her "mature" for her decision
  • His comments set off a debate over the abortion ban

(CNN) -- Chilean President Sebastian Pinera stoked an abortion debate in his country over remarks he made about an 11-year-old girl who became pregnant after being raped by her mother's partner.

Abortion is illegal without exception in the South American country.

The girl, known only as "Belen," said in an interview that she would have the baby.

Pinera, a supporter of the abortion ban, said Belen's decision shows "depth and maturity" and asked the country's health minister to personally watch over her health.

Political opponents seized on the president's comments, creating a national debate on the issue.

Former President Michelle Bachelet, who is running for the presidency once again, told Radio ADN that abortion should be an option in the case of rape.

Belen is "a girl with her entire life ahead of her and she requires protection," Bachelet said. "That being said, the option of abortion, in this case, for rape, seems to be the right solution."

Pinera said that in the interest of the girl's health, doctors will consider whether it makes sense to induce a premature birth if it protects Belen.

He added, "the life of the mother always comes first, and we are going to protect Belen's life with everything medicine has to offer and with the care of the public health system."

But some say that an 11-year-old girl is not mature enough to take care of a child.

"More than brave, she is a victim and we have to treat her like a victim and we have the protect her," Chilean Sen. Fulvio Rossi said. "The nation has to protect her and it has to give answers to Belen and to many other women who suffer on a daily basis from the neglect of their most basic rights."

Another senator, Juan Antonio Coloma, defended the current laws, saying that abortion should be prohibited no matter what.

"What is relevant is to help this girl who has been victim to a rape, but that, from my perspective, can't ever justify what is worse, which is to abort that child inside her," he said.

While the debate unfolds in the media, a psychologist said that Belen's family should look for support away from the public eye. Having a child at such a young age is a lot to deal with, and her understanding the choice she made will be facilitated by denying interviews and staying out of the spotlight, Ana Maria Aron said.

CNN Chile's Camilo Silva contributed to this report

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