Uprooting Chile’s Total Abortion Ban

In January 2015, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet introduced legislation that would overturn the country’s complete ban on abortion to allow access to safe and legal services in cases of sexual violence, fatal fetal impairments, and when the woman’s life is at risk.

Chile is one of a handful of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where abortion is prohibited in all circumstances, including to save the life of the woman.

IPPF/WHR quickly marshalled funding and provided technical support to our local partners, APROFA and MILES—as well as a larger coalition of organizations dedicated to promoting abortion rights—for a multi-faceted advocacy strategy aimed at educating lawmakers and health authorities, and building long-term public support for the decriminalization of abortion.

MILES serves as a technical expert on safe abortion in congressional committees and educates lawmakers on the public health consequences of the estimated 200,000 unsafe abortions that occur each year in Chile. MILES also launched a robust communications campaign in social and traditional media, and has developed a strong base of support for the legislation among key medical professionals and midwives.

Building on its long history of training teachers to provide quality sexuality education, APROFA developed a series of case studies and teaching guides to generate conversations around abortion and the proposed law reform. APROFA found that the majority of teachers and students had a low level of knowledge about the proposed abortion law reform, but that both groups generally supported the right to abortion under the three proposed exceptions.

Chile’s lower house of congress voted in favor of the legislation in March. The next step is for the bill to move through the Senate, where advocates are hopeful that the measure will become law.

More than 97% of women of childbearing age in Latin America and the Caribbean live in countries where abortion is restricted or banned altogether.