(PRESS RELEASE) This evening the Health Commission of Chile agreed to advance a proposed bill that would allow women access to safe and legal abortion services in cases of life-endangerment, sexual violence, and fatal fetal impairments.
The legislation, which was introduced by President Michelle Bachelet in January, will face another vote in the Health Commission on whether to advance the law as proposed by President Bachelet, including the three exceptions.
Chile is one of six countries in the region with a total ban on abortion services. Currently, nearly 200,000 unsafe abortions occur each year in Chile according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Chilean women risk their health and lives if they need to end a pregnancy. It should never have to come to this.
“The Health Commission took an important step today towards bringing Chile in line with so many other nations across the globe and finally decriminalizing abortion in the country.
“We hope the Chamber of Representatives will continue to support women’s health and human rights by quickly working to pass President Bachelet’s historic bill.”
Chile’s 1931 health code legalized abortion in limited circumstances, but this reproductive health service was later banned on all grounds in September 1989. In 2008, the most recent year data is available, more than 33,000 women were hospitalized due to abortion complications according to the Chilean Ministry of Health.
In June, the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (U.N. CESCR) called on Chile to quickly approve legislation to decriminalize abortion. The U.N. CESCR oversees compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a treaty obligating member states to ensure equal enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights for all individuals.
In a report to the U.N. CESCR, the Center for Reproductive Rights argued that the total criminalization of abortion and the restrictive access to emergency contraception in Chile violate women’s rights to health, non-discrimination and substantive equality, as well as the right to non-regression, since women previously had access to legal abortion in limited circumstances.
According to a 2014 report published by the Center, 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to safe and legal abortion services in the last 20 years—a trend that has marked incredible progress toward improving women’s rights and lives, including significantly reducing rates of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion. The report was released alongside the Center’s updated World’s Abortion Laws map—one of the most comprehensive resources on abortion laws across the globe.