Chile Is Tantalisingly Close To Ending Its Blanket Ban On Abortion
The Debrief: Although the country will still be a long way from being 'pro choice'
Chile’s President has taken a major step forward in her bid to make a serious dent in the country’s restrictive abortion laws. The proposal, which still has to go before a tribunal, would grant women in ‘exceptional’ circumstances the right to have an abortion.
President Michelle Bachelet, a previous head of UN women, has been fighting for over two years to amend the legislation that currently carries jail terms of up to five years for women found guilty of having illegal abortions. Bachelet made this a key promise of her 2014 election campaign, and with her current term ending in early 2018, is now under pressure to secure her legacy.
Chile’s existing laws are a relic of General Pichochet's brutal totalitorian regime, and have become increasingly anachronistic, even in socially conservative South America. Colombia approved a similar bill in 2006, and in 2012 Uruguay made abortion legal in all cases up until 12 weeks. In fact, Chile is the only South American country clinging on to outright ban.
The criteria set out in Bachelet’s bill for what constitutes a legal abortion include cases of rape, where the mother’s life is at risk or if the foetus is severely damaged. So, even if the proposals pass, Chile will be a long way from ‘pro-choice’; women there will still be a long way from enjoying the rights we take for granted here in the UK. But that said, if this succeeds it will be an extraordinary achievement for the country’s first female President, and an important victory for human rights campaigners after a gruelling battle in Chile.
But she is not out of the woods just yet – the bill still has to face a debate in front of a judging panel that is 80% male. Yet, a recent opinion poll by research company Cadem reports that 70% of Chileans support the bill, so we are more than quietly optimistic.
The tribunal has until the 28th August to make a decision - come on Chile!
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