The Chilean Senate votes to legalize abortion when a woman’s life is in danger, when it is unfeasible, or if it results from a violation
The Chilean senate has approved a bill to legalize abortion in certain cases, a victory for center-left coalition Michelle Bachelet and human rights groups that have campaigned for years against the country’s strict ban.
After a long and sometimes blunt debate overnight, the Senate voted to legalize abortion when a woman’s life is in danger, when a fetus is unfeasible, or when a pregnancy results from rape.
Chile is one of only a handful of countries around the world where abortion is illegal without exception. The ban was launched during the final days of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in 1973-1990, and Bachelet promised the reform when he assumed for the second time in 2014.
The bill will now be returned to the Chamber of Deputies of Chile to be reconciled with a version approved there. That is expected to happen within the week, allowing it to become law.
Senate approval had been seen as the biggest obstacle to the move, given opposition from some Christian Democrats within Bachelet’s own coalition, as well as lawmakers from the Chilean right-wing bloc.
“It’s a historic morning,” Bachelet said in front of the presidential palace after passage of the bill. “The Senate approved the decriminalization of abortion in three cases, which means that we can be a country where women can make the best decision possible in these situations.”
Although Chile is seen as one of the most conservative countries in Latin America and the Catholic Church maintains a significant influence, polls show that about 70% of Chileans are in favor of alleviating abortion prohibition.
However, the conservative opposition has pledged to challenge the measure in court.
“It’s been a sad day for Chile,” said Jacqueline van Rysselberghe, a senator from the far right UDI party. “We are going to take him to the constitutional court (to try to block it).”
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