World in View: Chile abortion rights

From the September-October 2017 issue of News & Letters

hanger-buttonChilean women won a limited but important victory Aug. 21. The Constitutional Tribunal ruled to legalize abortion in three situations: rape, incest, and when the woman’s life is in danger.

Chile was one of four Latin American countries that forbid abortion in all cases (along with Nicaragua, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic). Women who decide to abort have been jailed. Participants in abortion face 15-year sentences. Between 2010 and 2014, 73 people were convicted of helping women control their own bodies.

Laws don’t stop abortions, they just make them dangerous. In 2016 over 30,000 women had to go to hospitals for injuries caused by back-alley abortions. Illegal abortions are estimated at over 60,000 per year. Important as it is, this bill will hardly make a dent in these statistics.

The original bill the Chilean Congress approved also included legalizing abortion when a fetus is unviable. Some of the strongest supporters of the bill were women who have been forced to carry a severely malformed, non-viable fetus to term. Some have watched these babies, forced to be born, suffer and die painful deaths.

Even this mercy was challenged by anti-abortion fanatics. How many women facing such an outcome for their baby will chance saving it such suffering for 15 years in prison?

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