Former UN Official Turns Chile Into Abortion Battleground
NEW YORK, February 13 (C-Fam) When Chile’s president Michelle Bachelet signed a proposal to Congress last month to legalize abortion, it was a televised event that made international news.
Abortion advocates from outside Chile had targeted the country– one of six with a total ban on abortion. Bachelet, the former head of the UN’s women’s agency, took their position, claiming her nation’s laws “constitute a clear breach of international obligations by the State of Chile.”
Bachelet’s bill would allow abortions up to the 12th week of pregnancy on women over 18 if the mother’s life is at risk, the baby is unlikely to survive after birth, or in cases of rape.
Girls from 14 to 17 would need parental consent. Abortions up to 18 weeks on girls under 14 would be permitted with authorization from a civil court.
Amnesty International called the bill “a starting point.”
In 2011 – when Bachelet was head of UN Women – experts published an analysis finding international law does not establish a right to abortion. The San Jose Articles is for people “who are coming under pressure from UN personnel and others who say falsely that governments are required by international law to repeal domestic laws protecting human beings” from abortion.
During this time, the UN was embroiled in a debate whether legalizing abortion improves maternal health. A landmark study found that after abortion was banned in Chile in 1989, the maternal death rate plummeted by nearly 70%.
Pro-lifers in Chile anticipated Bachelet’s bill. They are organizing seminars, marches, testimonies and diaper donations. A bill to provide comprehensive support, up to two years after a baby’s birth, for mothers with vulnerable or high-risk pregnancies was introduced in Congress days before Bachelet’s event.
“Nowadays resorting to abortion seems like the easy solution,” said legislator Paulina Núñez. “We want policies that support life and mothers that find themselves suffering in these situations,” concurred legislator María José Hoffman.
Last month, Dr. Jorge Becker testified to a joint meeting of Chile’s Senate and House health committees. Becker was an obstetrician-gynecologist in Spain where abortion was originally permitted for the same three conditions, “but today is abortion for any reason.”
Dr. Jorge Ignacio Sanchez told the committees that doctors address both mothers’ and babies’ health and human rights. No one knows how long a person will live after they are born, and in the case of rape, it is worse to add another assault on the woman’s body, he added.
“We are looking for positive ways to help vulnerable women,” Elizabeth Bunster with Chile Es Vida (Chile is Life) told the Friday Fax. She criticized Bachelet’s “international allies” who “involve themselves in decisions which affect our country with hidden interests and a colonial mentality.”
Bachelet ignited a furor in Chile during her first term as president before her stint at UN Women when she made the morning-after pill available for free in government hospitals to girls as young as 14 without parents being notified.
The morning-after pill is “a Trojan horse designed to clear the way for the legalization of abortion,” said one mayor.
In 2013, abortion advocates seized on the tragedy of an 11-year old girl in Chile who became pregnant from rape by her mother’s partner. Bachelet said abortion was “the right solution.” The girl, however, said she wanted the baby.