The country of Chile is famous for its wine, but abortion advocates would say its infamous for its tough stance on abortion—killing one’s pre-born child is illegal there, no exceptions. The country’s belief that all humans are equal, regardless of development level, came under fire last month from abortion advocates, putting Chile, and abortion, in the spotlight. The impetus? The heartbreaking story of a young child—only 11 years old—pregnant from rape (assaults she’d been enduring for years—some reports say these began as early as age 7 but certainly by age 9). This news spread quickly, prompting many to think a “rape exception” for abortion should be allowed in Chile. Our summer interns who hold graphic abortion signs in downtown Toronto have been hearing this sentiment day in and day out from passersby these past few weeks: “But what about that 11-year-old rape victim in Chile who’s pregnant?” they ask.
Former Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, says she believes Belen, the young girl, should be given an abortion. If Bachelet wins another presidential term, she’ll even push to change the law on this. On the surface, Bachelet wins points on our culture’s “compassion” scale, leaving anti-abortionists appearing hard-hearted. But are we?
People on both sides of the debate can agree that an egregious crime has occurred—one deserving of harsh punishment (I’m all for hard labour) for the man who hurt her. Both sides can also agree that, independent of a pregnancy, Belen will need very special counseling and care in the years to come. And both sides can agree that abortion won’t unrape Belen. The trauma, the memories, all of the horror will tragically leave an imprint on Belen that simply can’t be erased by erasing the pregnancy.
So why would abortion be considered by some? Because Belen circumstances are excruciatingly difficult: Belen is pregnant against her will. Because this pregnancy will be a reminder of the brutality that’s gone on. Because Belen is a child, and adults, not children, should be having children.
It is understandable, then, that someone would want to spare Belen this injustice. Just because one’s motivations are understandable, though, it doesn’t follow any action is permissible. The challenge here is that Belen’s child already exists. A life created under horrifying circumstances doesn’t change the fact that a life was created.
If we could have stopped that monster’s sperm from fertilizing Belen’s egg, that would have been good. But that’s not the reality. We’re not talking about preventing a life from coming into existence from non-consensual sex; we’re talking about ending a lifealready in existence. If we believe in human rights and equality, then we must believe that the human right to life applies equally to younger humans as it does to older ones, even when the younger human’s father is a moral monster.
Until the baby is born, the only way—abortion—means killing a vulnerable child. Do civil societies permit the killing of needy children because their moms endured a trauma? Put that way, Bachelet’s position drops on the compassion monitor. We can’t just look at the end result we want to accomplish (help Belen), but also at the means being proposed (kill Belen’s child). And if the means is wrong, we may not do it even if the end is good.
Do we need to help a young child who’s been victimized? Most certainly, but helping her must never translate into doing harm to another young child.