Chile's President Sebastian Pinera has stoked outrage by praising an 11-year-old girl for opting to give birth to a baby conceived after she was repeatedly raped by her mother's partner.
Pinera remarked on the girl's "depth and maturity" after she said during a TV interview that having a baby would be "like having a doll," the BBC reported.
His comments caused an outpouring of anger on social media, while the case has stirred a heated national debate over abortion in one of Latin America's most conservative nations.
Abortion has been illegal since General Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, even in cases of rape, and Pinera's government has opposed any reform of the law.
According to the Associated Press, even though doctors have said the girl's life and that of the fetus are at high risk, ending the pregnancy was not an option.
The AP quoted Pinera as saying:
"I've asked the health minister to personally look after the [girl's] health. She's 14 weeks pregnant and yesterday she surprised us all with words showing depth and maturity, when she said that despite the pain caused by the man who raped her, she wanted to have and take care of her baby."
The man who raped the fifth grader repeatedly over the course of two years confessed to the abuse and, incredibly, was defended by the girl's mother, who said the sex was consensual.
The child's maternal grandmother in the remote southern city of Puerto Montt brought the case to the police.
The girl, meantime, appeared in a TV interview on Monday, saying:
"I'm going to love the baby very much, even though it comes from that man who hurt me. It will be like having a doll in my arms."
Former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet — a pediatrician who spent the past several years heading the United Nations agency for women — wants abortion legalized in cases of rape or risk to the health of the pregnant woman.
Bachelet, who will be contesting Chile's Nov. 17 presidential election, reportedly said of this case:
"She's a girl who needs to be protected and therefore I think a therapeutic abortion, in this case because of rape, would be in order."