Chilean women win new abortion rights

Women's rights supporters celebrate Constitutional Tribunal ruling legalizing abortion in certain cases in Santiago, August 21.

After a long battle, women will have the right to abortion for therapeutic reasons. Chile’s Constitutional Court announced a bill allowing abortion in such circumstances had been approved on August 21, despite pressure from conservative right-wing forces.

In a six-to-four vote, the court ruled in favour of the three cases in which abortion would be permitted: in the case of rape, if the mother's life is endangered or if the foetus is malformed. The ruling ended what was a more than two-year long series of lawsuits and controversy, and gave women's rights groups an important victory.

A statement from the Corporation for Secuela Reproductive Rights said: “Today we women conquer new spaces of dignity, freedom, autonomy and equality, because the complete penalisation of abortion and the stigma and unjust and inhumane sanctions that weighed on women seeking to terminate their pregnancy has been lifted.”

The ruling takes Chile off the list of countries that criminalise abortion without exception. There are now 18 countries that prohibit any form of abortion.

The abortion law is part of a package of social reforms pushed by President Michelle Bachelet. The president had promised to decriminalise abortion when she took office for her second term in 2014, but has faced heavy pushback from the conservative opposition.

A ban on abortion was put in place during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, which lasted from 1973 until 1990.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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