Legal News

Most Abortions Now Legal in Chile

Michelle Bachelet

Summary: After losing the ability to have abortions 28 years ago, women in Chile will be able to undergo the procedure legally once again.

On Monday, Chile’s Constitutional Tribunal legalized abortion, a procedure that was deemed illegal 28 years ago when a military dictatorship was in control. There will be restrictions on which abortions can be performed but the country with some of the strictest laws against abortion is moving to join popular demand throughout the world in legalizing the controversial procedure.

  
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Chile’s Congress voted earlier this month to pass the bill allowing abortions in cases of unviable fetuses, danger to the mother’s life, and pregnancy caused by rape. The bill had widespread public support and a majority vote but a few still raised alarm, filing two requests to have the bill reviewed to ensure it did not violate the country’s constitutional guarantee of “protection of the unborn.” Once the judges were finally able to move past the requests to verify that it was constitutional, the bill was able to be moved into law.

For both requests, the judges voted six to four to uphold the bill, dismissing the requests. A final approval of the law was a big victory for the President Michelle Bachelet-ruled government. She said, “What has prevailed is tolerance and that every woman may make decisions based on her values, religion, principles or real options.”

Bachelet, a former chief of U.N. Women and center-left politician, added, “Today I am proud to say we have fulfilled a fundamental commitment of our government with the women in our country. It has been a long battle, fought with the weapons of democracy and dialogue, overcoming barriers and prejudice that in the past impeded hundreds of women from alleviating their suffering.”

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Until 1989, some abortions were allowed under their 1931 health code. When Gen. Augusto Pinochet was in control and near the end of his reign, he outlawed abortions. Legislators tried to partly legalize abortions, producing over a dozen bills but they were all rejected or put on the side. His ruling made the country one of just a few that completely prohibited abortions.

The Roman Catholic conference of bishops in Chile was disappointed in the law, saying it “offends the conscience and common good of our citizens. We are before a new situation in which some unborn human beings are left unprotected by the state in this basic and fundamental right.” The Catholic church has softened its stance on abortions but still strongly resists the procedures. Bachelet had approximately 70 percent approval from the public to legalize abortion but in a predominantly Catholic country, there was still a lot of resistance.



There have been dramatic changes in past twenty years towards abortions. The Center for Reproductive Rights in New York claims that 35 countries have made adjustments to their laws to allow for more abortions to be performed. The only countries in the Americas that still outlaw abortion completely are Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador.

Do you think the remaining four countries in the Americas will join the movement soon? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about abortion laws, read these articles:

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org



 

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