Women Behind Bars

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Excerpted from Women Behind Bars. From an interview on September 25, 1997 in the Chin Chin prison facility in Puerto Montt, Chile. On that date, there were 22 women in prison there for abortion-related offenses...

Christina, 20-years-old and illiterate, got pregnant in the countryside, on one of the Cabuco Islands. When she realized she was pregnant, afraid of her family's reaction and with no support from her boyfriend, she left for the city where she found work in a store. A friend offered to take her to a woman who did abortions discretely. The woman charged her 30,000 pesos (approximately U.S. $66), which Christina raised with difficulty.... The method used was a surgical probe. She developed an infection, which gave her a high fever. The woman who performed the abortion told her to go to the emergency health unit and say she had fallen off the roof of her house and onto a pile of wood. She managed to get to a hospital where they took care of her but they demanded to know who had performed the abortion. No matter how much they threatened her, Cristina remained silent - she remembered the woman had threatened to tell all to the police if her name was revealed. She was so frightened she said nothing and still keeps the woman's name a secret. Her family knows nothing ... she has been in jail for 16 months.




From The Alan Guttmacher Institute


  • Estimated rates of abortion are highest in Chile and Peru compared to other countries in Latin America. Each year, almost one woman in every 20 (age 15-49) has an induced abortion.
  • In Chile there are close to six abortions for every 10 births.
  • Of the 451,800 pregnancies in Chile in 1990, an estimated 44% were wanted births, 21% were unwanted births, and the remaining 35% ended in induced abortions. 31,930 women were hospitalized after undergoing unsafe abortions that year.
  • Researchers and health professionals estimate that one in five women who undergo abortions in Chile requires hospitalization for the treatment of complications.
  • 56% of women age 15-44 in Chile practice family planning (1989).
  • A 1993 study in Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Peru showed that women in those countries are familiar with teas and infusions made from herbs and other vegetable products that are believed to induce abortion.