Proceedings of the bill that modifies the Criminal Code to legalize abortion with women’s consent within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy started this Wednesday. The termination of pregnancy is legally permitted in Chile, but only on three grounds: the fetus is unviable, there is risk to the life of the mother, and rape.
Protests took place outside of the National Congress of Valparaíso in parallel to the discussion in the Chamber of Deputies. Both feminist groups that support this initiative and other groups—mainly religious—that are against it were part of these protests. In Santiago, there was also a ‘green handkerchief’ movement, a symbol that supports abortion, outside of La Moneda.
This kind of manifestations were also seen in the Women and Gender Equity committee. Those who support the project—among which was present the president of this proceeding, deputy Maite Orsini—attended the session with green handkerchiefs and green clothing as well.
The process began with oral hearings, in which different civil organizations participated. The person in charge of the Legislative Monitoring Program of the Humanas Corporation, Camila Maturana, argued that criminalization of abortion is a violation of women’s human rights, since it affects their autonomy to make decisions regarding their lives and bodies.
She also pointed out that from a legal point of view and according to international experience, banning abortion doesn’t diminish its practice, just as legalizing it doesn’t increase cases of women who decide to abort. In addition to this, Maturana explained that clandestine abortions ‘seriously’ affect women’s health.
Gloria Maria, representative of the Board for abortion, had the same stance, arguing that criminalizing the termination of pregnancy has resulted in practices that affect the health and safety of women, and this will continue even with abortion law on three grounds.
Deputies Ximena Ossandón (RN party) and María José Hoffmann (UDI party) also expressed their objections about the initiative during the debate. While deputy Ximena Ossandón expressed her concern about the 14-week limit established in the bill, María José Hoffmann remarked that an amendment to the Criminal Code ‘is a step closer to achieve free abortion.’
Additionally, Hoffmann emphasized in the rights of the life of the unborn child: in her opinion, if abortion is legalized, these rights will become less important than the rights of women who would be protected by this motion.
According to the Chamber’s information, this discussion will go forward every Wednesday in the aforementioned committee.
*Traducción de Karina Sepúlveda