Chile's Lower House Tuesday turned down a bill to decriminalize abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy by 65 votes against, 62 in favor and one abstention. Thus the initiative will be shelved.
Abortion, therefore, remained legal in Chile only in the event of fetal infeasibility, risk of death of the mother or in pregnancies resulting from rape, an amendment which was introduced in 2017 under the socialist rule of physician Michelle Bachelet.
Tuesday's rejection means the issue cannot be put forward for discussion for one year, thus sparking strong reactions from experts and feminist groups.
“We will lose as many times as we need to, said left-wing Deputy Maite Orsini, one of the promoters of the bill. Abortion exists, it is a reality, but there are still many who prefer to hide it and condemn those who make that difficult decision,” added Marisela Santibáñez, a member of parliament for the Communist Party.
The House of Deputies thus maintained within the Penal Code incarceration of up to five years for women who interrupted pregnancies as well as for doctors who perform the illegal procedures.
The bill had been submitted by the center-left opposition, which has a majority in the lower house. However, at least five deputies from the centrist Christian Democratic Party (PDC) voted concurrently with the center-right groups.
As part of the controversy, Deputy Catalina del Real said after the vote that “this is great news for life. Today we have all contraceptive methods at our fingertips”, as conservative groups celebrated the decision, to now move on to the issue of equal marriage which is to be debated upon next week after it failed to be voted on Tuesday, much to the disappointment of sexual diversity groups.
Abortion has been a key issue to the ultra-Catholic presidential frontrunner José Antonio Kast, while left-wing hopeful Gabriel Boric is expected to have opposing views for next year when the subject can be put up for discussion yet again under a new President. Even is passed by Congress, Kast might even veto it, if his own beliefs are anything to go by.