March 2023

Chile’s abortion rights movement faces uphill battle

Advocates say fight continues despite rejection of new constitution last year that would have enshrined reproductive rights.

Santiago, Chile – Siomara Molina stands on the steps of the Chilean National Library on a busy street in the heart of Chile’s capital.

Waving fists in the air and wearing green scarves, symbolic of the Latin American movement for abortion rights, Molina and the dozens of women around her chant: “Abortion yes, abortion no, that’s my decision”.

Abortion is illegal in Chile, a traditionally Catholic country, except in three limited circumstances: nonviable pregnancies, rape or risks to a mother’s life.

And a years-long push by rights advocates to loosen those restrictions suffered a serious blow last year when Chileans rejected a new draft constitution that would have enshrined reproductive health and bodily autonomy as fundamental rights.

But despite the setback, as an estimated 400,000 women gathered to mark International Women’s Day in Santiago and other cities this week, access to safe, free and legal abortion remains one of the Chilean feminist movement’s key demands.

“Today’s framework is one of the most restrictive in the world. It does not give women the autonomy to make decisions,” said Molina, spokeswoman for the Permanent Assembly for Abortion Legalisation. She is marching together with other feminist groups campaigning for a myriad of gender equality causes.

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