New abor­tion law bid fails

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

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

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