Chile court ruling ends abortion ban; new law allows in limited cases

Chile Legalizes Some Abortions After Two Years of Heated Debate

Over the past 20 years, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights in NY, 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to abortion.

The court's 6-4 vote paves the way for Socialist President Michelle Bachelet to sign the legislation into law.

A Chilean court dealt abortion rights activists a landmark victory Monday, approving a controversial bill that rolled back parts of one of the world's strictest abortion bans.

It ruled that terminations were justified after rape, if the mother's life is at risk or if the foetus was not expected to survive the pregnancy.

After listening to over 130 organizations over several days, the Constitutional Court rejected that challenge largely along partisan lines, meaning the bill now becomes law. Demonstrators in favor of therapeutic abortion celebrated outside the courtroom in the Chilean capital, while opponents protested, including two women carrying anti-abortion banners who embraced in tears after the decision was announced.

BBC Latin America analyst Candace Piette said that the ruling was a watermark for reproductive rights in the four countries of Latin America that have a blanket abortion ban.

An anti-abortion demonstrator holds a sign that reads in Spanish "It is written: you will not kill" outside the Constitutional Court building in Santiago, Chile, Aug. 18, 2017.

[Chile's pro-life law] restricted abortion to exceptional cases for decades and outlawed abortion entirely in 1989 under Dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Women found guilty of having abortions now face prison terms of up to five years.

The Health Ministry says 33,000 illegal abortions are carried out in Chile every year, although other studies suggest the figure may be higher. Most involve black-market purchases of the drug misoprostol to end first-trimester pregnancies.

Pro-choice groups faced off against anti-abortion forces outside of the court as the justices heard the case.

A decision by Chile's Constitutional Tribunal today to support the decriminalization of abortion under three circumstances represents an important win for human rights and for the protection of the lives and health of women and girls across the country, Amnesty International said. Congress recognized civil unions for same-sex couples in 2015.

"We are before a new situation in which some unborn human beings are left unprotected by the state in this basic and fundamental right", the statement said.

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