Chile Culture slider — 29 March 2016

chile abortion

Alana Gale

In the photo from El Desconcierto the woman has written “my choice” on her stomach.

Since 1989, Chile has had a blanket ban on all forms of abortion. According to the penal code, any form of abortion is considered a felony that is punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Yet, women still get abortions. Despite a lack of survey data, the Guttmacher Institute reports estimates of between 60,000 and 300,000 abortions each year in Chile. Writing here two years ago, George Allen says women seek out these abortions in different forms: clinics that practice abortion clandestinely, “back-alley” abortions performed by strangers without medical licenses, or a drug called Mistoprostol.

Chilean president Michelle Bachelet of the Socialist Party wants to offer Chilean women a different option for getting an abortion. BBC news wrote about the president’s announcement in January 2015 of a bill that would make abortion legal within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy on three grounds: when the mother’s life is at risk, when the fetus would be stillborn, or in the case of rape.

Though there have been 12 other bills to decriminalize abortion since 1991, they were all tabled by the congress. The congress has two houses, the House of Delegates and the Senate. Both would need to approve a bill for it to pass.

President Bachelet’s bill has already entered the National Congress. As of March 18th, it had passed through the House of Delegates with all three provisions, reported El Mundo. The vote for protecting the life of the mother was 67 in favor, 43 against. The second case—stillborn fetus—was approved 62 over 46, with two abstentions. Finally, the result for abortions in the case of rape was 59 in favor and only 47 against, with three abstentions.

However, the debate over the bill is far from over. After the passage of the bill in the House of Delegates, President Bachelet made a speech about her hopes for further advancement on this issue, said La Tercera.

The next step for the bill is to make its way to the Senate for approval. Another La Tercera article details how it will first be analyzed by the Health Committee in the Senate, and later by the Senate’s Constitutional Committee.

Writer for La Tercera, Macarena Vega explains that the time the bill will spend in these two committees is unknown. María Fernanda Carrasco, also writing in La Tercera, reported that the government has said that they will not put pressure on the Senate, because they recognize the need to look at the bill thoroughly.

Only after the bill is dealt with in these committees will it be presented to the full Senate. It needs needs 20 votes of the 38 senators to pass.

Debate about the bill among the political parties has been very heated. The governing coalition consists mainly of the Christian Democratic Party (DC), the Socialist Party (PS), and the Communist Party (PC), though there are several smaller independent parties included as well. The opposition is the National Renewal (RN) and the Independent Democratic Union (UDI).

The opposition, opposes the bill.

For example, El Mostrador cites UDI member Ignatio Urrutia saying that the bill was akin to murdering fellow human beings. He said he hoped the supporters of the bill would “go straight to hell” when they die.

Likewise, Claudia Nogueira, also of the UDI party, asserted that the bill was a setback for protecting the unborn, reports Yahoo News.

Lawmakers in favor of the bill posit arguments such as that of the Secretary General and SP member, Marcelo Díaz, who thinks the bill is about opening up options for women. Díaz believes it is unfair to punish and criminalize women who find themselves in the situations represented in this bill, says La Tercera. Another lawmaker, Camila Vallejo of the CP, insisted that if men could give birth, then abortion would have been legalized a long time ago.

The centrist DC party is divided over the issue. The DC party chairs both the Health Commission and the Constitutional Commission in the senate.  The former will be the first in the Senate to consider the bill.

Senator Carolina Goic, who presides over the Health Commission, has been careful not to vocalize her position, though in the past she has objected to the approval of clause regarding cases of rape.

The leader of the Constitutional Commission, Pedro Araya, has doubts about both the still born fetus and the case of rape.

Other members of the DC party also remain ambivalent about various parts of the bill. Their positions will play an important role in the success or failure of the bill in the upcoming days.


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