Abortion in Chile: Women face countless obstacles

20/08/2018
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In a report published yesterday, FIDH and the Citizens’ Observatory analysed the obstacles facing women and girls who seek access to safe, legal abortion services in Chile, a year after the adoption of Law 21.030.

On 21 August 2017, the Chilean Constitutional Court confirmed the adoption of Law 21.030, which authorises an abortion in three specific circumstances: where there is a threat to the life of the pregnant woman, the foetus is non-viable and the pregnancy is the result of rape. Law 21.030 amends one of the most regressive legal frameworks in the world, which criminalised and banned abortions outright. Although this law is an important step forward, the vast majority of women in Chile (sometimes estimated at 97%) are still being deprived of their right to safe, legal abortion. Furthermore, the minority who do have recourse to abortion under Law 21.030 face numerous restrictions and the authorities’ attempts to restrict the application of the law.

« The latest measures adopted by the Chilean authorities concern conscientious objection and appear to be aimed more at avoiding the law being implemented than at guaranteeing access to safe, legal abortion in the three situations envisaged above »

Elsie Monge, FIDH Vice President.

The scope of the law is very narrow and may shrink even more if the government secures approval for the implementation of the new decree on conscientious objection. If adopted, this decree will facilitate the application of the conscientious objection clause, which entitles health officials to refuse to perform abortions if they feel that it goes against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. The Chilean law also stipulates that institutions may invoke the conscientious objection clause, although this principle is not recognised anywhere in international human rights law. Many obstetricians and private medical establishments have already shown that they conscientiously object to carrying out abortions, thus creating more impediments to accessing safe, legal abortion.

Besides the attempts to deregulate the exercise of conscientious objection, there are many other obstacles to accessing safe, legal abortion under Law 21.030. These obstacles are not only connected to the three circumstances that justify the right to abortion but also to the time period during which an abortion can be performed, the possibility for third-party intervention that can interfere in women’s and particularly young girls’ decision-making and the ban on campaigns to promote abortion services.

« The Chilean authorities should take all necessary legal and administrative measures to guarantee effective, timely, non-discriminatory access to high quality safe, legal abortion services throughout the country for the three circumstances provided for by law. They should also work to remove the obstacles that continue to prevent women fully and freely deciding on sexual and reproductive matters by guaranteeing access to abortion for all women under all circumstances »

José Aylwin, Director of the Citizens’ Observatory.

Our organisations are also issuing a series of recommendations to protect the sexual and reproductive rights of Chilean women and girls. In particular, the Chilean authorities should put an end to the conscientious objection clause being invoked by institutions and should strictly regulate recourse to conscientious objection by individuals.

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