Chile to Pass Historic Bill that Decriminalizes Abortion in Certain Circumstances
(PRESS RELEASE) Today Chile’s Constitutional Tribunal voted 6 to 4 to pass an abortion bill that will allow women to access safe and legal abortion services in cases of life-endangerment, rape, and fatal fetal impairments.
President Michelle Bachelet introduced abortion legislation in January 2015. The abortion bill passed in Constitutional and Health Committees within both the Cámara de Diputados —the lower house of Chile’s Congress—and the Senate. However, soon after Congress passed the bill, conservative groups challenged the bill calling it unconstitutional and the Constitutional Tribunal held hearings last week before making its final ruling.
Today’s Constitutional Tribunal vote is the final step to make legal abortion services a reality for the women and girls of Chile. Now the bill will head to President Bachelet’s desk for her to sign into enactment.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Today the Chilean Constitutional Tribunal stood up for countless women and girls in their country by passing this historic bill to protect their health, safety and fundamental human rights.
“Extreme abortion bans rob women of their ability to make their own decisions and force countless women into the shadows when they need to end a pregnancy, risking imprisonment and even their lives.
“We commend the government of Chile for their commitment to this critical legislation and now await its swift enactment.”
Although Chile’s 1931 health code legalized abortion in limited circumstances, a law passed in 1989 banned abortion under all circumstances – even when pregnancy endangers the woman’s life. Nearly 200,000 unsafe abortions occur each year in Chile, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The Center for Reproductive Rights testified before the Constitutional Tribunal this week in support of the abortion bill and submitted amicus briefs demonstrating that the legislation was is in line with international and comparative legal standards.
“As a Chilean, I’m proud to see the progress and political will of my home country to decriminalize abortion in limited circumstances,” said Lilian Sepúlveda, vice president of the Global Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The Center stands ready to help our Chilean partners see that the law becomes a reality for all women and girls.”
In May 2017 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—the principal human rights body for the Americas—hosted a hearing on the status of Chile’s abortion law reform, where the Center for Reproductive Rights, Miles Chile and Isabel Allende Foundation testified before the Commission to call on Chile to prioritize passage of the abortion bill.
Seventy percent of Chileans support the current abortion bill, according to a recent Cadem survey. The bill has widespread support from women’s rights organizations in Chile, international and regional human rights experts, and influential voices in Chile, such as Isabel Allende.
According to a 2014 report published by the Center, 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to safe and legal abortion services in the last 20 years—a trend that has marked incredible progress toward improving women’s lives, including significantly reducing rates of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion. The report was released alongside the Center’s updated World’s Abortion Laws map—the most comprehensive resource to track abortion laws across the globe.