If a child is too young to adequately consent to sex, with all its emotional and physical ramifications, then surely she is too young to make life-or-death decisions, right?
Not in Chile.
An 11-year-old girl repeatedly raped and impregnated by her stepfather has been praised by Sebastián Piñera, the nation’s president, for her “mature” decision not to seek an abortion. (Note that this scenario occurs all over the world. A recent case in China involved an abused 12-year-old.)
Now, leaving aside questions of what abortion options would be available to this young girl in Chile (few), the amount of pressure a Catholic country’s therapists and families might place on a vulnerable child (huge), and the fact that the girl’s mother is obviously not the person who should be raising her (the mother initially called the rapes “consensual”), how is a child whose frontal lobe is still under construction to be regarded as mature enough to decide to continue a process that can easily kill her?
Two things: first, the age of menarche — a girl’s first menses — has been dropping since 1840, as has boys’ sexual maturity since 1750, even though mentally and emotionally they are still children; and, second, the brain research being carried out at the National Institute of Health (NIH) by Dr. Jay Giedd and by other researchers in other countries, clearly indicates that even in healthy humans, a child’s brain differs from an adolescent’s brain differs from an adult’s brain.
This 11-year-old is therefore two whole steps away from having an adult brain. She should not be asked to make an adult decision, since she does not yet possess the frontal lobe capacity to do so.
In addition, pregnancy and childbirth are risky. Even in wealthy nations with excellent healthcare and follow-up, grown women die during fetal growth and delivery. The US is hardly at the top of the list for maternal mortality (that’s where people die as a result of pregnancy or delivery, including within several days after a birth), but US statistics demonstrate that overall, maternal mortality is 8 per 100,000. In Chile, the figure is almost three times higher: 23 per 100,000. In both countries, that is an average. In certain geographical areas and among certain populations, death rates soar.
That is especially true of people who are pregnant before they reach age 20. Among teenagers, pregnancy is horribly dangerous. Imagine what the risk will be for an 11-year-old who can only picture a baby being like a doll to “take care of”.
Amnesty International asserts that this child must be provided with an abortion in order to save her life. While Chile stalls, an evasive scenario is likely to happen. Because the young girl’s body is immature, something is almost certain to go wrong with the pregnancy. At that point, doctors can intervene and decide to “deliver early” in order to keep the 11-year-old alive. Early enough, and the fetus will not survive.
That’s what you call prevarication. In a society where a raped child is praised for “maturity”, that’s what happens.