Chile’s Highest Court Legalizes Abortion

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Aug 21, 2017   |   5:27PM   |   Santiago, Chile

Abortion activists won a victory Monday when Chile’s highest court upheld a measure to chip away at unborn babies’ right to life.

Abortions are illegal in the South American nation, but the court decision likely will change that. In a 6-4 vote, the high court justices ruled that legislation to allow abortions in cases of rape, fatal fetal anomalies and dangers to the mother’s life is constitutional, the Associated Press reports.

The court ruled on legislation that narrowly passed Chilean Congress earlier this month. President Michelle Bachelet has not yet signed it, but she is expected to soon, according to the report.

On Monday, the pro-abortion group Miles in Chile called the decision a “historic moment” for women.

Giselle Carino, who runs the International Planned Parenthood Federation in the Western Hemisphere Region, also celebrated the news and criticized the country for protecting unborn babies’ right to life.

“… the ban was an outrageous, cruel, and blatant violation of human rights. Similar laws are currently on the books in several countries including El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic,” Carino said.

Here’s more from the AP:

Court secretary Rodrigo Pica said details of the decision, which cannot be appealed, would be released on Aug. 28. Demonstrators in favour of therapeutic abortion celebrated outside the courtroom in the Chilean capital, while opponents protested, including two women carrying anti-abortion banners who embraced in tears after the decision was announced.

Americans United for Life Senior Counsel Clarke Forsythe expressed his disappointment in a statement below:
 “Americans United for Life (AUL) is deeply disappointed that the Constitutional Tribunal of Chile approved a legislative bill today that broadly legalized abortion before viability for the first time in Chile, contrary to the recommendations by AUL and many others to  apply the pro-life provisions in Chile’s Constitution and strike the legalization bill.  The Chilean Constitution explicitly states that “the constitution secures everyone’s right to life and to physical and psychical integrity. The law protects the life of the unborn.”
We are surprised as well that the Court did not heed the country’s experience that women’s health trends have improved, with a drop in the maternal mortality rate, since Chile tightened its prohibition against abortion in 1989, as documented in this 50-year study.  As of 2012, Chile had the lowest maternal mortality ratio in Latin America.
If there is a silver lining, it is the Court’s close vote today, 6-4, and that the Court merely allowed a legalization bill to go into effect.  Unlike the US Supreme Court’s decision Roe v. Wade, the Constitutional Tribunal did not create a constitutional right that would be immune from legislative correction. The Chile Chamber of Deputies and the Senate can repeal this legalization bill once they realize its negative impact on women, their children and the broader society.”

When the bill passed the Senate in July, pro-life Sen. Jacqueline van Rysselberghe mourned the vote and promised to keep working to protect unborn lives in the courts if the bill became law.

“It has been a sad day for Chile,” van Rysselberghe said at the time. “We are going to take it to the constitutional tribunal (to try to block it).”

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But the challenge was not a success, and it looks like abortion will be legal on unborn babies in certain circumstances. According to news reports, the high court decision cannot be appealed. That means the decision will stand until there are enough new high court justices who are willing to repeal it.

Abortion activists from across the world have been pushing abortion on the country for many years. This spring, for example, the United States-based pro-abortion group Center for Reproductive Rights requested a hearing to lobby for the legislation.

The hearing was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina at the request of US-based Center for Reproductive Rights and Chilean NGOs Miles Chile and the Isabel Allende Foundation,” wrote Marie Smith, the director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues. “Despite having the lowest rate of maternal mortality in Latin America and the Caribbean, pressure has been increasing for legislators to add legal exceptions to the law. The IACHR heard testimony in favor of abandoning pro-life protections and a request that the IACHR contact the Chilean Congress in support of the legislation.”