Chile moves towards decriminalization of abortion

Image of San Francisco Church, Chile

San Francisco Church, located in Santiago, is the oldest Catholic church in Chile. The country’s Catholic church strongly opposes President Bachelet’s efforts to decriminalize abortion. © Getty Images

As one of six countries that have a total ban on abortion—imprisoning both the woman and the doctor—Chilean courts have seen 289 cases related to abortion since 2010, according to Poder Judicial. But Chile’s first female president has made strident moves to decriminalize abortion. Beginning when she took office in 2014, President Michelle Bachelet has declared reproductive rights an important focus of her tenure. In September, Chile’s lower house approved an amendment to the law that would allow abortion in cases of threat to the life of the woman, rape or fatal fetal abnormality. The senate is now holding discussions surrounding the amendment, with Sen. Pedro Araya, president of the Constitutional Commis­sion, making it a priority, according to BBC.

Chile’s Catholic church quickly opposed the amend­ment, releasing a statement earlier this year declaring decriminalization would create a “culture of death,” NPR reported. According to Catholic News Service, in early September, the church organized a demonstration in Santiago to protest the amendment and clarify the church’s position on abor­tion: “Children have the right to be born, whatever the situation.”

Despite the opposition, President Bachelet has made the decriminalization of abortion in Chile a priority mission, telling BBC that she understands the myriad of reasons why women choose to have an abortion, and that women “should have legally the possibility of making their own choices.” The proposed amendment has gone farther than any other attempts to decriminalize abortion in Chile, according to BBC.

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