Chile moves towards decriminalizing elective abortion

Santiago (AFP) –


Chile's lower house of Congress on Tuesday approved a bill to decriminalize abortion within 14 weeks of pregnancy, a major step towards legalization of a procedure still only allowed in a handful of Latin American countries.

The proposal has yet to be approved by ultra-conservative Chile's upper house, or Senate.

On Tuesday -- International Safe Abortion Day -- lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies gave the green light with 75 votes in favor, 68 against, and two abstentions, according to the parliamentary Twitter account.

The bill, submitted in 2018 by opposition MPs, seeks to change the existing law which allows elective abortion only in three scenarios: when there is a threat to the life of the pregnant woman, if the fetus is unviable, or if the pregnancy was the result of rape.

These legal abortions represent only about three percent of the thousands of clandestine terminations taking place in the country, according to activists.

Until 2017, Chile maintained an outright ban on the procedure still denied most women in Latin America.

"This is for all the women... who have been persecuted and criminalized," tweeted Communist MP Camila Vallejo, one of the authors of the bill.

"Down with the patriarchy which will fall, will fall!" she added. "Up with feminism, which will win, will win!"

Among other Latin American countries, abortion is legal only in Uruguay, Cuba, Argentina -- since January -- and Guyana, as well as Mexico City and three Mexican states.

It is banned in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and most other countries allow it only for medical reasons or in case of rape.