World

Chile close to legalizing abortion, as Latin America moves in pro-choice direction

Elizabeth Llorente

Chile, one of a handful of nations with an absolute prohibition against abortion, is moving closer to lifting its ban in cases of rape, when the mother’s life is in peril and when an unborn child is not “viable.” Other Latin American nations are moving in a similar direction.

Currently women who get abortions in Chile are subject to up to five years in jail, as are doctors or medical personnel who assist with the procedure. A woman who arrives at a hospital with signs that she has had an abortion is supposed to be reported to the police or the hospital could face sanctions.

This week, the Chilean Senate voted to ease abortion restrictions, a move strongly supported by President Michele Bachelet. But on Thursday the bill hit a roadblock as modifications to the measure failed to pass in the lower house by one vote – the result of one member’s abstention.

Pro-choice advocates expressed frustration over the failure of Chile’s lower house to legalize abortion and vowed to continue to push for abortion rights.

“We know that we can never trust that the law will be changed,” Chilean activist Claudia Dides, the director of Miles Chile, said to Fox News on Friday. “This negligence is insulting to the human rights of women. This will go down in history in the same way that the opposition to allowing women to vote did.”

Polls show that 70 percent of Chileans support legalized abortion in cases of danger to the mother’s life, rape or when a fetus is not “viable,” according to DigitalJournal.com. Despite that, abortion opponents remain intensely against the procedure in Chile, a socially conservative, largely Roman Catholic nation that only legalized divorce in 2004.

Chilean conservatives have been intense in their opposition to legalizing abortion ever since Bachelet began pushing it several years ago.

“It is a mockery that members of a party that calls itself ‘Christian’ dare to legalize the killing of the innocent,” said Carmen Croxatto of Chile’s Pro-Life Pro-Family Network, according to the Christian Post.

Protests on both sides of the debate have drawn large crowds. One rally in opposition to allowing abortion, for instance, last year drew about 100,000 protesters.

Chile is one of just four countries that currently prohibit abortion in all cases, according to the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights. A handful of others have rules so restrictive that they amount to de facto bans. Latin American countries with all-out bans or tight restrictions include Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and El Salvador.

Outside of Latin America, the only two states with an absolute ban on abortions are Vatican City and Malta.

Chile’s near brush with legalized abortion reflects similar moves in other Latin American nations.

In recent weeks, a Bolivian constitutional committee of the lower house approved expanding the nation’s abortion law to allow termination in the first two months for a lack of resources to support a child to the mother being a student. The issue will be debated on the floor of the lower house.

Earlier this month, Dominican lawmakers paved the way for allowing abortion when the mother’s life is at risk and in cases of rape or incest.

Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.