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  HOME | Chile

Chile Begins Abortion Discussion with an Eye on Argentina’s Success

SANTIAGO – Chile’s Congress began discussing on Wednesday the decriminalization of abortion within the first 14 weeks of term, which was presented in 2018 and is opposed by the government of the conservative Sebastian Piñera.

Wearing green T-shirts – the color associated with a movement to legalize abortion – and shouting “Abortion yes, abortion no, that’s for me to decide!,” some of the left and center-left MPs who promoted the initiative arrived at parliament with sights set on the recent decriminalization in Argentina.

“Today we begin the path towards the legal and social decriminalization of abortion in Chile. Abortions exist and will continue to exist. It is in our hands to stop persecuting adolescents and women who do not have the resources to do so in clinics,” said Maite Orsini, opposition MP and chairwoman of the parliamentary commission where the project is discussed.

“Abortion is a decision of women and it is necessary to get out of hiding, insecurity and stigma. No more mandatory maternity,” Commons Party deputy Camila Rojas added on Twitter.

Unlike the law approved in Argentina in December, the Chilean project is limited only to decriminalizing abortion and does not guarantee or provide the provision or support of the State.

Minutes before the start of the discussion, there were moments of tension between groups both in favor and against the move at the doors of the Chamber of Deputies in the coastal city of Valparaiso, 100 kilometers west of the capital.

As the parliamentary discussion progressed, in Santiago dozens of women from the powerful 8M Feminist Coordinator group held a protest at the gates of the presidential palace and pasted posters with the slogan “Free, legal, safe and free-of-charge abortion” on the facade of the Catholic University of Chile, one of the most conservative study institutions in the country.

“We hope to open a debate that is played [out] in the streets, as happened in Argentina, and that overflows [into] parliament,” said the Coordinator’s spokesperson, Karina Nohales.

Chile, which banned abortion at the end of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), decriminalized it in September 2017 on just three grounds: fetal non-viability, risk of death of the mother, and in the case of pregnancy resulting from rape.

Activists say, however, that it is not wide enough and many Chilean women who meet the three conditions still find it difficult to interrupt their pregnancy as health workers are allowed to invoke conscientious objection to refuse to participate in an abortion.

Although free abortion is a demand of millions of Chileans and the feminist movement has shown great strength in recent times, the discussion promises to be long and polarizing, and the government has already stated repeatedly that it is against it.

“The government is against free abortion, of abortion where there is no reason other than the decision of the woman to be able to interrupt her pregnancy… the government [view] on this matter is clear,” Minister of Social Development and Family, Karla Rubilar, said on Tuesday.


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