Chile's top court paves way for abortions in some cases

Chile's top court paves way for abortions in some cases

The centre-left politician and former chief of UN Women Bachelet hailed Monday as an "historic day for the women of Chile!' and tweeted 'we advance a basic right for our dignity".

"Chile has finally moved one step closer to protecting the human rights of women and girls", said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, in a statement. These highly restrictive laws fuel unsafe, clandestine abortions, putting women's lives at risk.

Before the adoption of the new law and the court's ruling, Chile was one of very few countries in the world where abortion is criminalized with no exceptions.

"Chile's absolute prohibition on abortion has been a cruel law and bad public policy", said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. Unfortunately, this latitude is abused by women and abortionists who claim an abortion is for the woman's health.

Still, as the BBC notes, that did not prevent abortions from being conducted. "And most of the women who have been prosecuted have been reported to the authorities by medical institutions after suffering complications from an illegal abortion".

A 6-4 ruling upholds bill making the practice legal in cases of rape, non-viable fetus and threat to mother's life.

The Constitutional Court's decision can not be appealed.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.

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Chile once had some of the most liberal abortion laws in Latin America.

Attempts to ease the ban have been ongoing since 1991 but it has been held in place with support from the church and conservatives.

In the final phase of his dictatorship, Augusto Pinochet introduced an outright ban.

Polls in July showed that 70 percent of Chileans support legalised abortion under the three conditions mentioned in the bill.

Figures are hard to come by, but as many as 70,000 illegal abortions are performed each year in Chile.

Guevara-Rosas added: "The real test now is to ensure the law is actually enforced, that women and girls are fully able to access the comprehensive health services they need and that this reform opens the door for them to be able to fully enjoy their sexual and reproductive rights".

With the court's ruling on Monday, the bill has now become law.

Before Monday, the South American country was part of a small group of socially conservative nations that barred abortion under all circumstances - including the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Gabon, Haiti, Malta, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Senegal.

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