New abortion law bid fails
SANTIAGO: Chile’s chamber of deputies fell one vote short of passing the senate version of a bill easing the country’s strict abortion law,.
This was a surprise setback to President Michelle Bachelet and abortion rights advocates.
The senate narrowly passed a bill that would legalise abortion when a woman’s life is in danger, when a foetus is unviable, or when a pregnancy results from rape.
Last week, the lower chamber – which passed an earlier version of the bill more than a year ago – was expected to approve the modifications made by the senate.
That effort failed when one of the more conservative MPs in Bachelet’s centre-left coalition abstained. Other MPs were on holiday, leaving the government one vote short of the 67 needed to pass the bill.
Chile is one of only a handful of countries where abortion is illegal without exception. The ban was put in place during the closing days of Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 dictatorship. Bachelet pledged reform when she took office for a second time in 2014.
Although Chile is one of Latin America’s more socially conservative countries and the Roman Catholic Church retains significant influence, opinion polls show about 70% of Chileans favour easing the abortion ban.
The bill will now go through a messy reconciliation process that could take weeks. Abortion rights advocates fear the final version may pass after a change in the composition of Chile’s constitutional court scheduled for late next month, which is expected to make it more conservative.
That change could be critical, as the conservative opposition has pledged to challenge the abortion bill in the court.
“History could have been changed. We just needed one vote to avoid what happened,” centre-left MP Marco Antonio Nunez said in televised remarks. – Reuters
About 70% of Chileans favour easing the abortion ban