After the recent passage of a bill that would allow some abortions in Chile, the country's high court is considering whether or not the bill is a violation of the constitutional protections for unborn life.
Chile's constitutional court began discussion Aug. 16 on the unconstitutionality petition filed by legislators of Chile Vamos, a coalition opposed to the government of President Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet has made relaxing abortion restrictions a priority of her administration. Abortion has been illegal in Chile for nearly 30 years.
The bill would allow the procedure in cases of risk to the life of the mother, fatal congenital or genetic pathology in the unborn child, or rape. It would allow for objecting doctors to refuse to perform abortions, except in cases when the mother’s life is in danger and there are no other available physicians.
Chile Vamos' petition against the bill maintains that it transgresses the constitution as well as penal and health regulations. Angela Vivanco, the lawyer representing the 36 legislators before the high court, told La Tercera daily that one of the arguments presented refers to the personhood which characterizes the child in gestation, who therefore has “dignity, and merits constitutional protection.” “There is a profound conviction by the legislators and in the constitutional history of Chile that here we are not protecting a mass of cells, but a person,” Vivanco said.
The constitutional court is hearing arguments for and against the bill Aug. 16 and 17, and is expected to hand down its decision Aug. 18.
The Chilean bishops' conference has addressed a document to the court with five legal observations on the abortion bill. The bishops stressed the intrinsic value of life, the duty to protect the weakest, the principle of equality and non-discrimination, and freedom of conscience and religion. It also addressed parental rights, as under the bill a minor under the age of 14 who is seeking an abortion could obtain authorization from a legal representative of her choosing, without any parental involvement.