14 Aug 2015

Chile: the country where all abortion is illegal

Latin America Correspondent

Just seven countries in the world – including the Vatican – outlaw abortion without exception. Latin America correspondent Guillermo Galdos has been meeting those affected in Chile.

Ninety-eight percent of the world allows abortion when a mother’s life is at risk.

There are only seven countries have criminalised abortion without exception. The majority of them are in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Catholic Church still wields great power in the region.

In Chile, women are prosecuted for carrying out abortions. It has been legal since 1931, but Augusto Pinochet’s extreme right-wing military dictatorship outlawed therapeutic abortion in 1989.

The Victims

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights more than 1.6 million women are raped in the Americas every year.

I traveled South of the capital Santiago to meet Maria: A 14 year old girl who gave birth to her father’s son, 2 years ago.

She is clearly still extremely traumatized. At 12, nobody is ready to be a mother. Her family wanted her to abort but the doctor refused.

They had no money to look for an illegal – and more dangerous – kind of help elsewhere, so she was forced to give birth. Now she barely understands if 2 year old Mateo is really her son or her brother.

In Santiago, I met Andrea. She is a 20 year old student who was raped at a party. She found out she was pregnant after was 12 weeks.

“I feel like a criminal now. But really, I’m just a victim. There is no one to help me.”

Andrea went on the internet and found a man who sells abortion pills that are smuggled into Chile.

She had to borrow 60 pounds from different friends in order to buy the 12 pills she needed.

At that stage of her pregnancy it was very risky, and she was lucky to survive the ordeal.

Slow reform

In recent years socialist President Michelle Bachellet has pushed for a relaxation of the laws but has faced stiff resistance from conservative opposition.

The new government’s simple proposal would allow for an abortion if a mother’s life is in danger, if a foetus is unlikely to survive, or when a pregnancy is the result of rape.

Even though nearly 70 per cent of the country support the proposal, lawmakers have still not voted on the bill.

According to the UN, Chile is the country with the third highest rate of sexual abuse of children.