On September 20, the group in charge of drafting a new constitution for Chile, the Constitutional Council, approved language protecting “the right to life of those who are about to be born.” The approval of “Article 16”, as it is called, is a great victory for the cause of life.
The final text of the new Constitution still has to be approved by the voters in an upcoming referendum, to be held this December. But make no mistake: The vote to include strong pro-life language in the Constitution constitutes an important milestone in the ongoing cultural and political battle taking place in that country.
The path to victory has not been easy. In 2019, violent leftist groups were rioting throughout Chile. They even set fire to the Santiago subway, demanding that the Constitution of 1980 be replaced. A Constitutional Convention was convened to draft a new Constitution to be placed before the voters.
This first Constitutional Convention, convened in 2021, was dominated by the Left. The draft its 155 members came up with reflected the majority’s radical views. It was hostile to the unborn and to traditional morality. It incorporated gender ideology as central to social life and included abortion on demand and euthanasia as fundamental rights.
Fortunately, on September 4, 2022, Chile’s voters soundly rejected this Leftist assault on Life and liberty. Many Chileans were afraid that the new Constitution would mark a return to the radical socialism of the Salvador Allende years.
A new Constitutional Council, this time of 50 members, was elected on May 7, 2023. Pro-life voters came out in droves this time around and the conservative Republican Party, led by José Antonio Kast, won 22 of the 50 seats. The Chile Seguro coalition, a center-right party, with help behind the scenes from former President Sebastián Piñera, won 11 more seats. The Leftist “Unity For Chile Alliance” wound up with only 16 seats although, due to leftist demands, an additional seat was given to a “representative” of the indigenous Mapuche ethnic group.
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This dramatic turnaround was in part the Leftists own doing. Leftist President Gabriel Boric was narrowly elected in December 2021, but just six months under socialism was enough to awaken many Chileans from the hypnotic trance of the leftist narrative.
Boric pushed hard for the approval of the original pro-abortion, pro-LGBT draft, but this was decisively rejected by the voters, 62% to 37%.
The change in Chilean attitudes was stunning: in less than a year, Chile had gone from being on the verge of approving the most progressive Constitution in the West to having the possibility of approving a Constitution that respects the values of life, family and freedom. The role played by José Antonio Kast, leader of the Republican Party, was central to both victories.
The new draft Constitution is not free of controversy, but it presents the possibility of a true democratic renewal. The protection of the right to life, beginning with the rights of the most innocent and vulnerable, is a sign that the Chilean people have come to their senses, and rejected communism’s disregard for life, its embrace of abortion, and its destruction of the family.
On September 20, 2023, on a vote of 33 to 17, the Constitutional Council approved the final text of Article 16: “The Constitution assures to all persons the right to life. The law protects the life of the unborn.”
The background of Chile’s abortion law reveals just how important the new proposed text is. On September 23, 2017, Law No. 21,030 was adopted. It decriminalizes abortion on three grounds: where the life of the mother is at risk, where the fetus is non-viable, and where the pregnancy is the result of rape. Even for these exceptions, it limits abortion to the first 12 weeks (14 weeks if the girl is under 14 years of age).
The proposed Constitution’s language that it “protects the life of the unborn” has sent the pro-abortion left into a frenzy. For years, they have claimed to the Chilean public that “abortion is legal.” Now they are carrying out a media campaign suggesting that Article 16 does not change the current abortion law at all. In fact, they are insisting that the proposed Constitution is really saying that unborn children are not considered persons at all.
“The pregnant woman is a person for 100% of Chileans,” they argue. “Hence, when a conflict of interests arises, the woman’s choice prevails over the child’s right to life.”
This deceitful interpretation is nothing more than a blatant effort to confuse the good people of Chile.
If the Constitution is approved in the December 2023 referendum—as appears likely–Chilean will have to fight hard to defend the correct interpretation of Article 16. Their mission will be to ensure that the text is read as it is written: “the law protects the life of the unborn.” The plain language meaning of the passage is “there shall be no abortions in Chile.”
As soon as Article 16 was approved, the Constitutional Council representatives of the Republican Party and of the Chile Vamos bloc declared: “… today [our mood] is one of satisfaction… because very important norms have been approved for this draft Constitution to be submitted to plebiscite on December 17… first and foremost, the right to life and very particularly that of the unborn… emphasizing that whoever grows in the womb is someone.”
Antonio Barchiesi of the Republican Party said: “The fact that this law does not establish the direct prohibition of abortion is for us a mandate to always and everywhere seek the repeal of the abortion law, insofar as it permits the murder of an innocent person.”
We wish the Chilean people well in this effort to protect all of God’s children, born and unborn.
LifeNews Note: Carlos Polo is the Director of PRI Iberoamerica and Carlos Beltramo is the director of PRI Europe.