Chile's Constitutional Court Approves Bill Legalizing Abortion

Steven Mosher
by Jonathan Abbamonte
August 22, 2017
Reproduced with Permission
Population Research Institute

A bill legalizing abortion in cases of rape, fetal disability, and life of the mother was upheld yesterday by Chile's constitutional court, effectively securing the legalization of abortion in the South American country. It is widely expected that Chilean Socialist President Michelle Bachelet will sign the bill into law.

In a last-ditch effort to block the bill, eleven senators from the opposition Chile Vamos party had challenged the abortion bill on August 2nd, petitioning the constitutional court to throw out the provisions legalizing abortion in cases of rape and fetal disability on constitutional grounds. Chile's constitution specifically protects the right to life for the unborn.

The court voted 6-4 to uphold the bill with ministers Iván Aróstica, Cristián Letelier, Marisol Peña, and Juan José Romero voting in support of the petition filed by Chile Vamos lawmakers. In opposition, María Luisa Brahm, Carlos Carmona, Gonzalo Garcíía, Domingo Hernández, Nelson Pozo and José Vásquez supported the legalization of abortion.

Chile is one of only a few countries left in the world that still respects the right to life under all circumstances.

"Today is a sad day for all the pro-lifers all over the world. Today we are close - more than ever - with our Chilean brothers and sisters," says Carlos Polo, Director of the Population Research Institute Latin American Office, "the Chilean people love life, but today, bad politicians, led by the pro-abortion President Michelle Bachelet, have pushed through a tragic law supported by IPPF, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Ipas, Catholics for Choice and other pro-abortion groups that push and advocate for the legalization of abortion on all six continents."

The legalization of abortion has long been a core objective and campaign promise for the Bachelet Administration. The bill is likely to be viewed as the signature legislation of Bachelet's second term as economic, tax, and education reforms have, by and large, failed. Bachelet has also been plagued with scandal after it was revealed her son profited from a lucrative and privileged real estate deal. Bachelet's own popularity has plummeted from the beginning of her term in office with a current approval rating of only 32% .

The abortion bill passed both Chile's Senate and lower house earlier this year following a long, protracted fight from pro-life allies. Pro-life lawmakers worked tirelessly for several years to sink the bill but ultimately came up short under intense pressure from Bachelet and much of her ruling coalition.

In March, Chile's lower house, el Cámara de Diputados, had approved the abortion bill with a two-thirds majority and the bill proceeded to pass 22-13 in the Senate.

In July, however, the legislative process took an unexpected turn when, to the surprise of most observers, the abortion bill failed , by a single vote from a lawmaker in Bachelet's own coalition government, to reach the quorum necessary to proceed to a vote at the bill's second reading. The victory, however, was short-lived and the lower house approved the bill a few weeks later on August 3rd.

The legal challenge filed by Chile Vamos lawmakers had also asked the court to protect conscience rights for doctors, hospitals and other health care institutions. The current bill requires doctors who object to performing an abortion to report to the institution where they are employed any woman seeking an abortion. The health care institution is then required to find a non-objecting doctor at the same, or a nearby, health care facility. The constitutional court voted 8-2 to review the bill on the grounds of conscience protection rights. The court's ruling is expected to be unveiled on August 28th.

International pro-abortion organizations celebrated the legalization of abortion in Chile as a major victory. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), one of the world's largest pro-abortion advocacy organizations, posted a message on its Facebook page thanking pro-abortion activists who helped push through the bill.