Chilean lawmakers block abortion bills

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The Chilean Senate has rejected three bills that would have eased the country's absolute ban on abortions.

One of the bills would have permitted abortion when two doctors said it was needed because of risks to a mother's life or other medical reasons, such as a fetus with low chances of survival. It was defeated in an 18-15 vote.

Another of the measures rejected on Wednesday would have allowed abortion in the event of rape.

Chile permitted abortions for medical reasons until 1973, when the military dictatorship led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet repealed the measure.

The current government of conservative President Sebastian Pinera has opposed any loosening of the prohibition.

"The Senate has voted in favor of life, of the unborn child, a policy the government has defended," Presidency official Cristian Larroulet said.

Socialist Sen. Isabel Allende, who had favored the proposed changes, said she believes it's an issue of women's rights and that "those rights must be respected."

Given the Senate's rejection, lawmakers will have to wait a year to propose any new abortion bill.