A Chilean court ruled this week in favor of a controversial bill that allows abortion in some cases, against the objections of pro-life advocates who pointed to the Constitution’s explicit protections for the unborn. The bill allows for abortion in cases of rape, danger to the mother’s life, and when the baby is deemed to be “unviable.”
The legislation had been promoted for years by President Michelle Bachelet and was recently passed by the Senate. However, opponents of the bill had challenged it in court, arguing that it collides with the duty in the Chilean Constitution to “protect the life of the unborn.” After a three-day debate, the Constitutional Court of Chile ruled in a 6-4 vote that the bill did not violate the Constitution. The court will issue its final report next week, allowing the bill to be signed into law.
The country, which is predominantly Catholic, had previously had some of the most pro-life laws of any country in the world. Patricia Gonnelle, legislative coordinator for Chile is Life, told CNA that it is hard for pro-life organizations to “hold back the pain and grief” at the ruling, which she described as being partly due to political pressure.
“We lament that the court, which listened to all the most powerful medical testimony, did not accept what the doctors said. And there was no doctor in support of the bill who came to show up for that abortion bill, and that gives you a lot to think about, it's worrisome,” she added.
Still, Gonnelle said, the pro-life movement is not giving up. “Pro-life organizations will carry on as always, that is, supporting women in situations of conflict and much pain. They will not change their work, as they have always done for many, many years.” “With an abortion law, it's getting harder, but life will always win. It's just a matter of time, and that fills our hearts with joy,” she said.
The standing committee of the Chilean Bishops' Conference responded to the ruling by saying that “it is the entire society that loses with the legalization of abortion in Chile, even if it be under certain conditions.” “We are facing a new situation in which some unborn human beings are left unprotected by the State in this basic and fundamental right.”
From a legal perspective, the ruling violates the Constitution’s protections of unborn human life, while from an anthropological perspective that sees human dignity as the “center of social coexistence,” it is “incomprehensible,” the bishops said. Meanwhile, when viewed through the lens of the faith that a large segment of Chilean society professes, “the resolution that has just been adopted and that declares the abortion bill to be in conformity with the Constitution offends the conscience and the common good of citizens,” they added.
The bishops voiced their gratitude to all individuals, groups, and lawmakers who have worked to protect human life within the legal system. They pledged to “continue supporting women going through difficult circumstances in their pregnancy, those that decide to continue the pregnancy and those who think that abortion is a solution.”
“The Church, the people of God at the service of all, particularly the weakest, always offers its hands and extends an embrace of service to all people who need peace, protection, support and consolation.”