Judges finally overturn Pinochet dictatorship’s assault on the right to choose
CHILE’S Constitutional Tribunal has partially reinstated women’s right to a safe and legal abortion after the US-backed Pinochet military dictatorship removed it 28 years ago.
Parliamentarians approved a Bill earlier this month allowing a termination when the mother’s life is in danger, the foetus is unviable or the pregnancy is the result of rape.
Despite the majority vote in Congress and widespread public support for the Bill, right-wing MPs filed two requests for review before the tribunal, claiming the law would violate the constitutional guarantee of “protection of the unborn.”
Judges voted six to four on Monday to dismiss both requests and uphold the constitutionality of the new law, handing victory to President Michelle Bachelet, whose government championed the Bill.
“What has prevailed is tolerance and that every woman may make decisions based on her values, religion, principles or real options.
“Today I am proud to say we have fulfilled a fundamental commitment of our government to the women in our country.
“It has been a long battle, fought with the weapons of democracy and dialogue, overcoming barriers and prejudice that prevented hundreds of women in the past from alleviating their suffering.”
Abortion was allowed in some circumstances under Chile’s 1931 health code and hospitals interpreted the maternal harm provision liberally under President Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government to offer virtual termination on demand, but this was outlawed in 1989 under the Washington-installed dictatorship.
The dictatorship, backed by the Catholic Church, argued that abortion was no longer necessary because of advances in modern medicine.
Legislators have introduced over a dozen bills to partly legalise abortion since 1991, but all have been shelved or rejected.
The Catholic conference of bishops in Chile declared that the court ruling, which cannot be challenged, “offends the conscience and common good of our citizens.
“We are in a new situation in which some unborn human beings are left unprotected by the state in this basic and fundamental right.”
Until now, Chile was one of four countries in the Americas that banned abortion under all circumstances. The others are El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.