CHILE – Chile takes a big step towards decriminalising abortion

Proposed bill to legalise abortion up to 14 weeks hailed by Chilean legislator as ‘tremendous’ step for women’s rights.

Chile’s lower house of Congress has approved a plan to debate a bill that would expand women’s access to legal abortions, a step that could see the country join a small but growing list of Latin American countries that are easing restrictions on abortion.

Despite opposition from Chile’s centre-right government, the Chamber of Deputies passed the motion on 28 September with 75 votes in favour, 68 against, and 2 abstentions.

The bill proposes legalising abortion up to 14 weeks still faces a lengthy process before it can become law. “We are happy and excited because we have taken a tremendous step, which we did not expect, to be honest, in terms of the rights of women,” said lawmaker Maite Orsini, one of the promoters of the legislation. “This is a first step and we are not going to stop fighting until abortion is legal, free and safe for all women in Chile.”

Chile lifted an outright ban on abortions in 2017, legalising it in cases in which the woman’s life is in danger, the fetus is unviable or when the pregnancy resulted from rape. But these grounds account for only about 3% of the abortions taking place in the country, according to activists.

Monica Zalaquett, Minister of Women’s Affairs, said that the “government will always protect life from conception” [sic] and that no woman in Chile is in prison for having an abortion.

The bill must now be reviewed by the legislative body’s Commission for Women and Gender Equity and then be voted on again in the Chamber of Deputies before moving up to the Senate. It was first tabled in 2018 by opposition members of Congress.
Chile holds general elections on 21 November and is also in the process of drafting a new constitution to replace the old military-era charter.

“This is for all the women … who have been persecuted and criminalised,” tweeted Communist politician Camila Vallejo, one of the authors of the bill.

SOURCES: AlJazeera, 28 September 2021 + PHOTO: Protestors outside the former National Congress in Santiago, 28 September 2021 ; Liberation, with AFP, 28 September 2021