Chile, one of a handful of the world's countries that outlaws abortion in all cases, will debate a bill this year that seeks to relax the ban in certain circumstances, a government spokesman announced. President Michelle Bachelet who was re-elected and took office in March had pledged a change in the law ahead of her election.
The new Chilean bill does not contemplate fully legalizing abortion but will seek to allow it when there is danger to the mother's life, in the case of rape and when the fetus could not survive.
Such a rule would bring socially conservative Chile in line with much of the rest of Latin America. In the largely Catholic region, most countries allow terminations for health-related issues only.
However, attitudes are shifting. The case of an 11-year old girl who became pregnant after being allegedly raped by her stepfather caused an outcry in Chile last year, and some places, including Uruguay and Cuba, have legalized abortion.
”(The bill) forms part of the government's program and the basic objective is that in Chile there will be no taboo subjects, that this issue can be discussed,” said government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde at a press conference.
A bill would be sent to Congress, where Bachelet's center-left coalition controls a majority, in the second half of 2014, said Elizalde. Opposition politicians and church representatives have criticized the plans.
Reversing the abortion ban is one of several moves the government is making to dismantle the legacy of dictator Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990 and just before stepping down passed a law that banned abortion in all cases. Previously, termination had been allowed when there were health risks.