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SANTIAGO, Chile (ChurchMilitant.com) - Chile is one step away from legalizing abortion, even though current law doesn't allow abortion under any circumstances. President Michelle Bachelet introduced the pro-abortion measure two years ago, and the Chilean Senate will vote on the proposed piece of legislation on January 19.
On Monday, January 16, a Senate panel passed the proposed law with three votes to two votes. In 1989, Chile banned abortion in all situations; the previous 1931 law had allowed for abortion in some circumstances.
The proposed bill would legalize abortion in cases where the mother's health is at risk, where the baby wouldn't survive and where the cause of pregnancy is rape. In addition, abortions would be allowed up until 12 weeks and would be lengthened to 18 weeks when the mother is 14 years old or younger.
In March 2016, Chile's lower chamber of deputies voted to legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest and fetal abnormality. In September 2016, the Senate Health Commission also approved the bill, but it will not be enacted until the Senate votes on it and approves it.
In spite of the strict abortion laws, Chile has one of the highest rates of abortion in South America, with estimates showing that 13,000–18,000 abortions are carried out there every year. Critics of the proposed legislation point out, however, that Chile has the lowest maternal mortality rate in South America and one of the lowest in the world.
Doctor Francisca Decebal-Cuza, a psychiatrist who teaches at the Universidad de Chile's medical school, commented, "We have the lowest maternal mortality rate in South America, not in spite of abortion being illegal but because it is illegal."
She further remarked, "Since direct abortion became illegal in 1989, completely opposite to what everybody would have expected, maternal mortality rates in Chile have continuously decreased by 94 percent in 20 years according to the most serious research by the epidemiologist Elard Koch."
Marco Antonio Núñez, president of Chile's lower chamber of deputies, commented, "This is historic. The chamber of deputies has brought down the last ideological wall of the dictatorship."
In contrast, Decebal-Cuza remarked, "Many of us believe that, while this law seems limited in scope, it is a classic Trojan horse which will end up legalizing abortion on demand. We've seen this unfold in other countries, and now it is happening in Chile."
According to data compiled in 2013 from the Pew Research Center, 64 percent of Chileans agree that having an abortion is morally unacceptable. Critics have also pointed out that legislation that legalizes abortion under certain circumstances has made abortion commonplace in other countries.
For example, in Ethiopia, abortion is only legal in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormality or the life and health of the mother. In spite of these limited circumstances, abortion has become commonplace there as many women are claiming they were raped, and doctors must perform abortions in those cases, even when those claims are suspect.
Fetlework Taye, a nurse in Ethiopia, commented, "I know some of them may be telling me lies. But the law says I have to accept their evidence, their information, so I do the service according to that."
A similar situation is occurring in Columbia. Abortion was legalized there in 2006 and it has since led to a culture of abortion on demand for seemingly any reason. In Bogotá, the capitol, 97.4 percent of all abortions are done for reasons of "mental health."
Critics of the proposed legislation in Chile are saying there no adequate processes for verification of rape exist.
The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is gravely immoral and always contrary to God's will. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.