Chile’s lower house votes to debate bill permitting elective abortions

By Giselle Vargas for CNA

Credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock. / null

Santiago, Chile, Sep 29, 2021 / 16:01 pm (CNA).

Chile’s Chamber of Deputies voted Sept. 28 to begin the debate on a bill that would decriminalize abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. The measure passed 75-68 with two abstentions.

Abortion has been legal in Chile on the grounds of fetal non-viability, risk to the life of the mother, and rape, since September 2017. However, in January 2021 a bill was introduced to amend several articles in the Penal Code that establish the penalties for both the person performing the abortion and the woman who consents to it or induces it herself.

The Chamber of Deputies’  Committee on Women, Equity and Gender had voted 7-6 against recommending the bill in August, but the larger body discussed it nevertheless.

Because guidelines were issued, it should be discussed again in detail in the same committee, before moving on to other committees.

During the debate, lawmaker Andrea Parra of the opposition Party for Democracy said that although they are Christians, they would legislate in favor of abortion. Catalina Pérez of Democratic Revolution, another opposition party, said that the “bill is extremely modest” and that “thanks to the feminist movement we are going to have legal abortion whether they like it or not, because they can’t stop the course of history, because they can’t stop our green tide.”

The pro-life legislators had at their desks a picture of human development in the womb from eight to 40 weeks of pregnancy.

Karin Luck of the ruling National Renewal pointed out that when a woman is pregnant and wants that child “everyone recognizes a human being in gestation, no one questions the opposite,” but if the woman doesn’t want that pregnancy “that new being loses the category of human being.”

“This is a paradoxical double standard” of people who “talk on and on about human rights,” Luck said.

“In the same circumstances … one day after the 14th week it’s murder and the day before it’s a right,” she said. “How things change, how the facts are accommodated to suit their interests.”

Representative Ramón Barros of the Independent Democratic Union, another party in the ruling coalition, showed an image of a baby in the womb to express his opposition to the bill. He also encouraged legislators who call themselves Christians to “vote against murder, vote against not protecting the life of the unborn.”

Cristóbal Urruticoechea, also of the UDI, said that “motherhood is not patriarchal or capitalist and that you neither accept nor understand. You let yourselves be carried away by tempestuous movements, which make you despise motherhood and the life of the human being.”

“I am sure that in the future you will no longer be persuaded by this ideology and will regret this pact with death that you intend to make.”

Sergio Bobadilla, also of UDI, said that the legislators in favor of abortion are more concerned about being popular with those who are against animal abuse but “their hand doesn’t tremble in killing the most defenseless of the defenseless.”

Jorge Sabag of the Christian Democratic Party, an opposition group, said he appreciated the organizations that work to accompany women who are going through a crisis pregnancy.

Ignacio Urrutia of the Republican Party, allied with the governing coalition, stated that all members of his party and its presidential candidate, José Antonio Kast, are committed and publicly defend the life of the unborn.

Urrutia addressed his fellow lawmakers and criticized the cynicism and hypocrisy of those who went to Te Deum services commemorating national independence only to “seek citizens’ votes.”

Camila Flores of National Renewal noted that in Chile there are no women imprisoned for having an abortion.

The Minister of Women and Gender Equity, Mónica Zalaquett, said that since the abortion law went into effect in 2017 until June 2021, there were 2,556 abortions on the grounds provided by law. Of these, 797 cases were due to risk to the life of the mother, 1,296 due to fetal non-viability, and 463 due to rape.

“Since the law went into effect, no woman is serving a prison sentence for having had an abortion,” the minister said, noting that Chile has reduced maternal mortality. For every 100,000 live births there were 19 deaths in 2000, and 13 in 2017.

“This figure is well below that of Latin America and the Caribbean, even lower than the United States and other developed countries,” she said.

According to the minister, abortion ranks third in maternal mortality between 2002 and 2015, with an average of three women dying per year. These include miscarriages, molar pregnancy, and medical abortion.

“This government will always protect life, from its conception. Unchanging over time, the government’s vision is based on ethical and legal considerations and the absolute recognition of life.”

“The protection of the life of the unborn is a minimum principle that our legislation must guarantee,” Zalaquett concluded.

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