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Chile’s Congress Votes to Lift a Blanket Ban on Abortion

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Chile is set to allow abortions under some circumstances, ending a blanket ban on terminating pregnancies that had been in place since the waning days of the Augusto Pinochet regime decades ago.

Agence France-Presse reports that the measure, passed by the country’s Congress Wednesday, would permit abortions in cases of rape; where the life of the mother at risk; or if the fetus has a life-threatening birth defect.

Lifting the abortion ban, enacted in 1989 as Pinochet’s dictatorship drew to a close, has been a priority for President Michelle Bachelet, whose term will end next March. According to the report, terminating pregnancies in cases when the mother’s life is endangered or the fetus is nonviable were legal in Chile for 50 years before the Pinochet-era restrictions were put in place.

According to AFP, Bachelet’s efforts to overturn the strict prohibition, which penalizes abortions with up to five years in jail, began in 2015.

Changing abortion laws is the latest sign of receding influence of social conservatives in the South American nation, reports AFP — Chileans have been able to divorce since 2004, and same-sex civil unions have been allowed since 2015.

The government estimates that more than 70% of respondents were in favor of legalizing abortions under all three prescribed circumstance, reports Bloomberg, but the bill still has to survive a Constitutional Court challenge brought by abortion opponents before it can be signed into law.


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