Chilean court approves limited abortion for first time in nearly 30 years

By Ray Downs  |  Aug. 22, 2017 at 12:15 AM
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Aug. 22 (UPI) -- A Chilean court lifted the country's complete ban on abortion Monday, marking the first time legal abortions will be allowed there since 1989.

However, abortions will still be severely restricted -- and will be available only in cases of rape, a threat to a woman's life or deadly birth effects, reported Al Jazeera.

The Chilean senate approved a bill last month to allow abortion under those circumstances, but conservative lawmakers challenged its constitutionality. Judges approved the bill in a 6-4 ruling.

Although abortion has been prohibited in all circumstances in Chile for nearly three decades, women still received between approximately 60,000 and 70,000 illegal abortions per year, according to The New York Times. The criminal penalty for getting the procedure is up to 15 years in prison.

In a tweet, Chilean President Michele Bachalet said Monday was a "historic day for the women of Chile," adding that the bill advances "a basic right for our dignity."

Amnesty International also praised the ruling.

"Chile has finally moved one step closer to protecting the human rights of women and girls," Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement."This victory is testament to the work of millions of women across the Americas and the world who fight against draconian laws that punish women and push them to seeking clandestine and dangerous abortions, putting their health and lives at risk."

Guevara-Rosas pointed out, however, that Chile still has restrictive abortion laws that hinder women's rights.

"The real test now is to ensure the law is actually enforced, that women and girls are fully able to access the comprehensive health services they need and that this reform opens the door for them to be able to fully enjoy their sexual and reproductive rights," she said.

The judges' ruling took Chile out of a small group of countries that have complete bans on abortion under all circumstances. Those countries are the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Gabon, Haiti, Malta, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Senegal.

"Chile's absolute prohibition on abortion has been a cruel law and bad public policy," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "Doctors will no longer have to turn away women who are in desperate and life-threatening situations to seek clandestine or unsafe procedures."

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