Chilean Court Eases Total Ban on Abortion, Allows Killing Unborn in Some Cases

SANTIAGO, Chile — The Constitutional Court of Chile has ruled that a bill easing the country’s total ban on abortion does not violate the Chile’s Constitution.

The 6-4 ruling now allows the bill to be signed into law, which will permit unborn children up to 12 weeks in gestation (three months) to be killed in the instances of rape, risk to the life of the mother, or if the baby is not expected to survive in the womb.

President Michelle Bachelet had drafted the legislation two years ago, but the measure was just approved by Congress earlier this month. Following its passage, it was challenged in the Constitutional Court of Chile.

For most of its history, abortion has been illegal in the country, with the exception of the period between 1931 and 1989, when a law was passed allowing for the unborn to be killed when the life of child’s mother is at stake. Gen. Augusto Pinochet restored the ban by declaration in 1989 during the last weeks of his regime.

Chile is mainly a Roman Catholic nation, with 66 percent of its inhabitants identifying as Catholic. It is one of just seven countries in the world that completely ban abortion, with the majority being Latin American nations: El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Vatican City and Malta.

Therefore, according to reports, the majority of Chileans opposed easing the nation’s ban on abortion, despite the push by President Bachelet and feminist leaders.

“Today, women recover a basic right that we should never miss: decide when we live moments of pain,” Bachelet said in a tweet following the passage of the measure in Congress.

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The bill passed 70-45 in the Chamber of Deputies and 22-13 in the Senate, and over 130 organizations from both sides presented their views before the Constitutional Court of Chile after the legislation was challenged in court.

After the bill was declared legal on Monday, the Chilean Bishops’ Conference lamented the ruling, stating that “it is the entire society that loses with the legalization of abortion in Chile, even if it be under certain conditions.”

“[T]he resolution that has just been adopted and that declares the abortion bill to be in conformity with the Constitution offends the conscience and the common good of citizens,” it said.

“We lament that the court, which listened to all the most powerful medical testimony, did not accept what the doctors said,” Patricia Gonnelle, legislative coordinator for Chile is Life, also told the Catholic News Agency (CNA). “There was no doctor in support of the bill who came to show up for that abortion bill—and that gives you a lot to think about. It’s worrisome.”

As previously reported, former U.S. Attorney General C. Everett Koop once outlined that abortion is never necessary to save the mother’s life, and noted that the standard practice is always to remove the baby and assist both mother and child.

“Protection of the life of the mother as an excuse for an abortion is a smoke screen,” he said. “In my thirty-six years in pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be be aborted to save the mother’s life.”

“When a woman is pregnant, her obstetrician takes on the care of two patients—the mother-to-be and the unborn baby. If, toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health, he will take the child by inducing labor or performing a Caesarian section,” Koop explained. “His intention is still to save the life of both the mother and the baby. The baby will be premature. The baby is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.”

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