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As the US repeals abortion rights, Chile works to enshrine it

#repeals #abortion #rights #Chile #works #enshrine

As the United States loses a five-decade-old abortion right, Chile — long one of the most conservative countries in Latin America — is preparing to enshrine the same right in its constitution.

It’s a hard-won guarantee by pro-choice advocates, but one final hurdle remains: Chile’s first post-dictatorship constitution will be put to a referendum on Sept. 4.

If approved, Chile will be one of the few countries in the world and the first majority-Catholic Latin America to guarantee the right to “voluntary abortion” in its founding law.

Until 2017, the procedure was strictly forbidden in Chile, today it is only allowed in cases of rape or if the life of the woman or the fetus is in danger.

The issue is still divisive in Chile, but much less so as the Catholic Church’s hold over lawmakers has weakened in recent years.

A recent poll by Ipsos found that 41 percent of Chileans support voluntary abortion.

Another 32 percent support them conditionally, such as cases of pregnancy caused by rape.

A total of seven percent are against it.

– ‘Call a spade a spade’ –

Even among the 154 members of the constitutional convention elected to draft a new founding law for Chile – half of them women – there was no consensus on including abortion explicitly in the clause on sexual and reproductive rights.

Some feared that adding it would create controversy that could result in the document being rejected altogether.

But Chile’s influential feminist movement forced its inclusion and received the 15,000 signatures required for a proposal to be considered by the draft convention.

“It is necessary to call things as they are,” said Convention member Alondra Carrillo, an activist who has campaigned to include an abortion right “without any euphemisms” in the constitution.

As it stands, Article 16 of the draft outlines a right of access to “services” necessary for “voluntary abortion”.

Chile isn’t the only country in Latin America moving in the opposite direction to the United States on abortion laws.

In February, the constitutional court of Colombia – another conservative nation – decriminalized abortion for up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, joining Uruguay, Cuba, Guyana and Argentina in legalizing the procedure.

It is the latest abortion restriction in Latin America and went against the wishes of President Ivan Duque, who called the move “abhorrent”.

The procedure is also legal in Mexico City and eight other of Mexico’s 32 states. US women had already turned to services in Mexico for abortion services, often due to high healthcare costs in the United States, but demand is expected to increase amid new restrictions.

Most Latin American countries allow abortion for medical reasons or in cases of rape, but absolute bans remain in place in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

– ‘Life must be defended’ –

Chile’s draft constitution has been criticized by some for failing to set a pregnancy limit, which opponents say would allow abortions “up to the ninth month” of pregnancy.

Such a conclusion would be “completely wrong,” said Janise Meneses, human rights expert and member of the Constitutional Assembly.

“The deadline isn’t mentioned because it’s not a constitutional matter,” but one for the law, she told AFP.

Anti-abortion activists in Chile look to the US Supreme Court’s ruling that “the Constitution does not grant a right to an abortion,” but rather was a political decision.

“We must not adopt a constitution that enshrines the right to abortion,” said Bernardita Silva of the pro-life group Chile Siempre, calling the US ruling a “very encouraging” legal example.

“Life must be defended,” she added.

Even after the fall of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1990, under the influence of powerful ultra-conservative Catholic groups like Opus Dei, Chile continued to lag behind in terms of civil rights.

Same-sex relationships between men were criminalized until 1999 and divorce was only legal in 2004.

In 2017, with the church severely weakened by a series of pedophilia scandals, Chile legalized abortions for medical reasons and in cases of rape.

Two years later, anti-establishment anger erupted in the country with deadly mass protests to demand a fairer society – including civil and reproductive rights.

Same-sex marriage was legalized last year.

In December, Chileans elected President Gabriel Boric, who came to power on a left-wing program that includes defending abortion rights, while his conservative rival opposed it.

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#repeals #abortion #rights #Chile #works #enshrine

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