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Congressional committee rejects abortion bill

The Women and Gender Equality Committee has recommended rejecting an abortion liberalization bill. Abortion was partially legalized in 2017 under strict circumstances but private clinics may opt out of the law. Highly dangerous clandestine abortions are still practiced in high numbers.  

Congress’ Women and Gender Equality Committee has rejected by 6:7 votes an abortion liberalization bill, issuing a negative recommendation for the general debate.

Representatives that voted in favor were Camila Rojas (Comunes), Maite Orsini (Democratic Revolution), Maya Fernández (Socialist Party), Marcela Hernando (Radical Party), Patricia Rubio (Party for Democracy) and Marisela Santibañez (Communist Party).

Rejections came from María José Hoffman and Nora Cuevas (Independent Democratic Union), Karin Luck, Francesca Muñoz and Ximena Ossandón (National Renewal), Virginia Troncoso (independent), and the decisive vote from Joanna Pérez (Christian Democrats).

After the vote, the committee’s head, Maite Orsini, tweeted, “women’s rights can’t keep depending on people who put their beliefs over public health.”

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Argentine Abortion Victory Inspires Chilean Activists

Abortion in Chile

Abortion is common, if largely illegal. Carlos Ibáñez del Campo started liberalizing abortion in 1931 by legalizing therapeutic abortion.

In 1989, cardinal Jorge Medina and admiral José Toribio Merino, who was among the coup plotters of 1973, successfully pushed for abolishing the measure.

Legalizing abortion has been a persistent social demand, but it was only partially legalized in 2017. The Bachelet administration implemented the three-causes law, allowing abortion when the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life, if the fetus is severely damaged, or if the pregnancy resulted from rape.

In the latter case, the victim has to prove the crime occurred within weeks and convince a doctor. The burden of proof is lighter in the other cases, but women must still find doctors that confirm the respective health conditions.

Moreover, the government allowed private clinics to opt out of the law under certain circumstances. Officially, private clinics – often owned by the conservative wing of the country’s economic elite – notify at the entrance that they don’t perform abortions if the mother’s life isn’t in danger.

Between January and March 2019, 142 abortions were performed under any of the three causes, according to the Health Ministry’s latest abortion report, published in 2020.

Clandestine abortions remain a big problem. They are often carried out for a cash payment, even in Santiago’s upscale districts.

A 2013 study by the Chilean Institute of Reproductive Medicine found that around 70,000 clandestine abortions occur every year.

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