Michelle Bachelet Proposes Lifting Chile’s Total Abortion Ban

Chilean President Michele Bachelet (Slate)

Chilean President Michele Bachelet (Slate)

Late last month, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet proposed lifting her country’s total abortion ban.

Chile is one of seven Latin American countries to completely ban abortion. Bachelet’s bill allows for the measure in case of rape, or if the mother and/or baby are at risk of dying during the pregnancy. The procedure would be allowed up until the 12th week (3rd month) of pregnancy, or until the 18th week for girls younger than 14 years of age. Girls ages 14 to 17 would need their parents’ permission for the procedure.

Abortion has been outlawed in Chile since 1989, imposed under former dictator Augusto Pinochet during his rule. Anyone breaking this law faces up to five years in jail. (Before the ban, abortions were allowed in extenuating circumstances.) Twelve bills decriminalizing the procedure have been proposed since 1991, but none (so far) have passed through the country’s Congress.

The measure would cut down the number of women taking chances on risky, “back-street” abortions detrimental to their health. A “Reuters” estimate puts the number of illegal abortions between 15K and 160K. (Since the numbers would have to be self-reported in this case, it’s difficult to get an accurate count.)

According to an interview in Spanish newspaper “El Pais,” Bachelet was originally planning on proposing the bill in late 2014.

Bachelet faces opposition from anti-abortion activists, and from UDI, the opposing political party. Culturally, the country is also very socially conservative, owing to a large Catholic stronghold. But despite this, recent public polls found that 70% of Chileans support the bill.

This isn’t the first time Bachelet has worked to reform family planning: In her first term as president (2006-2010), she made the morning-after pill free in government hospitals available to women ages 14 and older, with parental consent unneeded.

This is one time where I think having a politician make laws about women’s bodies could work: In addition to being a woman, Bachelet is also a registered pediatrician. #FemaleLeadersKnowBest

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