By Marianna Orlandi, Ph.D. | August 24, 2017
NEW YORK, August 25 (C-Fam) Chile’s highest court approved a law that decriminalized abortion in cases of rape, fatal disability, and when a mother’s life is at risk. The law was adopted earlier this summer by Chile’s Congress and long-promised by President Michelle Bachelet.
By six votes in favor and four against, the Constitutional Court dismissed the pro-life challenge to the law by Chile Vamos, a coalition of lawmakers supported by a large number of national and international organizations and the Chilean Conference of Bishops.
The judgment removes Chile from an exclusive group of states that comprehensively protect children before birth that includes the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Malta, Nicaragua, and the Vatican. At least sixty others maintain highly restrictive abortion laws, notwithstanding pressure from the UN system to progressively allow abortion on-demand.
“We have a long fight ahead to stave off abortion on-demand and win back hearts and minds to protect the unborn person,” Professor Tomas Henriquez told the Friday Fax. The Executive Director of the human rights institute Comunidad y Justicia said this is only the beginning.
“We all know what the end game is, and pro-choice NGOs were quick to remind us that this bill is what they call the ‘minimum,’” he explained.
Bachelet described the decision as a victory of “tolerance.” The Court struck down by a vote of 8-2 the part of her law that restricted the right of health providers and workers to not perform abortions by claiming conscientious objection.
“The bill would have provided (a right to conscientious objection) only for doctors, but not for technicians or institutions,” Henriquez explained.
“This is the first case of conscientious objections in the Constitutional Court. We expect the Court to construct a new shield for conscience,” he said. But he said it remains unclear whether health providers, including Catholic hospitals, will be able to refuse to perform abortions. The judgment and dissenting opinions will be published next week.
This legislation will be viewed by many as Bachelet’s legacy project.
A press release from International Planned Parenthood Federation’s acknowledged, “this historic victory didn’t happen overnight,” but “took decades of grit, determination, and persistence.”
In 2006, during her first tenure as president, Bachelet forced the introduction of the morning-after pill in the country. Ironically, it was the same Constitutional Court who initially stopped her, invoking the provision of the constitution protecting human life.
After her re-election in 2014, and following her stint at the helm of UN-Women, she promised to decriminalize abortion.
International Planned Parenthood Federation’s CEO, Giselle Carino, called Bachelet “a champion of women’s rights,” and said this is “a historic milestone for women’s rights in Chile and around the world.”
Amnesty International similarly described the pro-abortion decision in terms of, “an important win for human rights.” Not all, however, agree with the abortion advocates’ claims.
The San Jose Articles, prepared by international law and health experts, state that human rights treaties enshrine a presumption in favor of protecting the unborn and nowhere contemplate a right to abortion in any circumstance.
The Chilean Bishops called the decision “incomprehensible,” stressing “abortion is not the solution to painful or difficult situations.” “We will double our efforts,” they said, to accompany all women facing difficult pregnancies.