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Chilean President Michelle BacheletGovernment of Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile, October 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Chile’s Senate could vote this week on a bill making abortion legal in cases of rape, life-threatening fetal deformity, and risk to the life of the mother.

The bill, supported by Chile’s pro-abortion President Michelle Bachelet, has taken a year to wend its way through the country’s lower house, which passed it with a two-thirds majority.

One committee of the Senate approved the measure and the Constitution committee is considering it now. If approved, the bill will go the full Senate, where Bachelet’s New Majority coalition is in control. Conservative opponents are already talking about a court challenge if and when the bill is passed.

“The bill is unconstitutional because it violates the right to life,” said Ernesto Silva of the Independent Democratic Union Party, as reported by Human Life International. In the same report, Nicholas Moncke added, “If the state now reneges on its duty to defend life, it won’t be able to defend it.”

The 1980 Constitution guarantees “the right to life and to the physical and psychological integrity of the person.” It then explains, under the heading “Right to life” that “the law protects the life of those about to be born.”

But Bachelet, who once campaigned as a pro-lifer, won her last election by vowing to replace the Constitution put in place by dictator Auguste Pinochet and liberalize the country’s morality laws concerning homosexuality and abortion.

Pushing for the change are feminist groups and pro-abortion non-governmental agencies such as International Planned Parenthood Federation and Amnesty International, which claims “Chile does not protect the lives of women.”

The groups say between 70,000 and 120,000 illegal abortions are performed annually in Chile, with more than 30,000 post-abortion hospital admissions, to bolster claims that illegal abortions are unsafe abortions.

But the country’s maternal health and mortality has been closely studied by researchers at the University of Chile. Their findings indicate that maternal mortality dropped dramatically throughout the 50-year study period and the decline continued at the same rate after Pinochet made abortion illegal in 1989.  

“This is a pretty powerful statement that you can really push maternal mortality rates down without changing access to abortion,” said study co-author Dr. John Thorp of the University of North Carolina.

The study identified other factors such as improved maternal education, trained neo-natal care staff, and modern sewer systems as causes for the decline while stating, “The reduction in the MMR is not related to the legal status of abortion.”