Three stabbed at Chilean pro-choice rally supporting abortion bill

Issue 
Chilean women demonstrate in Santiago on July 26 for abortion rights

Three women were stabbed during a march to demand free, safe and legal abortions by a group of hooded people who assaulted protesters in Chile’s capital, Santiago.

About 40,000 women attended the march on July 25, carrying signs that read “the rich pay for it, the poor bleed out” and “women marching until we are free.” The march was in support of an abortion bill introduced to Congress that day by legislator Guido Girardi, from the opposition Party for Democracy.

Demonstrators at the march borrowed the symbolic green bandanas from activists in neighbouring Argentina to represent their abortion rights demands, seeking what many Argentines are also seeking: free, legal and safe abortions up to 14 weeks of conception.

Though Argentina has yet to pass its 14-week abortion bill, Chile's struggle might be more difficult than its neighbour’s has been so far.

Until last year, abortions in Chile were illegal. It took two years of negotiations before legislators approved a law last August that decriminalised abortion in three cases: if the life of the pregnant person is at risk; if the pregnancy is the result of rape; or if the foetus cannot survive outside the womb.

However, when conservative President Sebastian Piñera took office in March, his administration rolled back these few long-fought rights, with his health ministry announcing that private clinics could refuse to carry out the procedure on grounds of conscientious objection.

On July 31, Piñera’s administration reaffirmed its opposition to the abortion bill, with interior minister Andres Chadwick stating: “If the bill about so-called free abortion passes, the president fully opposes it and will use all constitutional means, as he has already said, in order to impede this to become law.”

The three injured women have received medical attention and are recovering. However, the stabbings are part of a concerning trend of violence and harassment against pro-choice activists in the region.

In Argentina, several videos have emerged showing men threatening women for carrying their staple green handkerchief.

In some cases, women were threatened with rape.  

“When a group wants to intimidate another to keep them from expressing their ideas freely … This is terrorism; I don’t want to call it any other way”, said Macarena Castañeda spokesperson for the Action Round Table for Abortion, one of the groups leading the fight for access to free abortion in Chile.

Social media users in Chile have also highlighted the irony of the attack. “They stab three women in Santiago de Chile during a march to legalise abortion because life matters… But the life of women?”

[Compiled from TeleSUR English.]