Chile’s new fundamental law, drawn up over nearly a year by a constituent assembly made up of citizens, will be put to a referendum on September 4.
If the text is approved, it will place Chile at the antipodes of the United States which has just revoked the federal right to abortion: the right to a “various termination of pregnancy” (IVG) will then be engraved in the new Constitution.
Abortion still arouses debate in Chile, but the time is long gone when the Catholic Church used all its weight to prevent any development. A majority of Chileans (73%) are now in favor of abortion, without conditions (41%) or under conditions (32%), according to an Ipsos poll in September 2021.
Currently, abortion is authorized in cases of rape, danger to the life of the mother or fetal malformations.
Within the Constituent Assembly, which is totally equal, some had initially doubted the advisability of explicitly mentioning abortion in the Fundamental Law, fearing to antagonize the right on the entire text.
But the feminist movement provided the decisive impetus by collecting the 15,000 signatures needed to put the proposal on the agenda.
The latter was presented “without any euphemism”, tells AFP Alondra Carrillo, member of the feminist movement 8M and elected to the Constituent Assembly.
“The historical progress of the feminist movement has allowed us to say that it was absolutely necessary to express things (…) so that it changes the history of girls in our country”, adds this 30-year-old psychologist.
– Boric in favor of abortion –
Thus article 16 of the draft Constitution which, if passed in September, would replace the current one inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) establishes that the State guarantees sexual and reproductive rights without discrimination.
In this regard, it ensures “access to information, education, health and the services and benefits necessary for this purpose, ensuring that all women and people capable of bearing children have the conditions for free and protected pregnancy, voluntary termination of pregnancy, childbirth and maternity”.
The text does not mention a time limit, which immediately prompted anti-abortion movements to assert that the Constitution would allow abortion “up to nine months”.
Janise Meneses, head of the Fundamental Rights Commission within the Constituent Assembly, denies: it is “completely false to say that we have approved” in the project an abortion “without time limit” or “until the day before the birth”.
“The deadline is not mentioned because it is not a constitutional given. It is the law which must specify the deadlines within which it is possible to exercise this right”, she insists.
In 1990, at the end of the dictatorship, Chile was particularly lagging behind in terms of civil rights: same-sex relations were not decriminalized until 1999, divorce was not authorized until 2004, and ultraconservative groups like Opus dei were influential in the predominantly Catholic population.
In 2017, under pressure from the feminist movement and while the Church was entangled in numerous pedophilia scandals, the country of 18 million inhabitants finally ended the total ban on abortion.
Less than two years later, the 2019 social uprising against inequality put the issue of sexual and reproductive rights back on the agenda.
Homosexual marriage was thus voted in 2021 and the Chileans gave a large majority to the young left-wing president, Gabriel Boric, who during his campaign clearly said he was in favor of abortion, against his far-right rival.
If the Constitution is passed in September, Chile could be one of the very first countries in the world to include abortion in the Constitution, with France where the party in power, supported by the government, wants to quickly table a bill in that Sens.
But the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States revives the hope of the Chilean anti-abortion movements. “We must not have a Constitution that establishes the right to abortion,” claims Bernardita Silva, president of the “Chile Siempre” Foundation.