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Reprod Health Matters. 2007 Nov;15(30):202-10.

Abortion policies and practices in Chile: ambiguities and dilemmas.

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  • 1Social Sectors Development Strategies, Brookline, MA, USA.


Abortion is not legal in Chile even to save the woman's life or health. This situation creates serious dilemmas and vulnerabilities for both women and medical practitioners. Abortion incidence has probably decreased since 1990, when data were last studied, due to increased use of contraception and lower fertility, and deaths and complication rates have fallen as well. Misoprostol is available, but Chilean hospitals are still using D&C for incomplete abortions. Although Chilean medical professionals should by law report illegal abortions to the authorities, less than 1% of women in hospital with abortion complications are reported. There are two loopholes, one legal, one clinical. "Interruption of pregnancy" after 22 weeks of pregnancy is legal for medical reasons; this may save some women's lives but can also force prolongation of health-threatening pregnancies. Catholic clinical guidelines define interventions solely aimed at saving the woman's life, even if the fetus dies, not as abortion but "indirect abortion" and permissible. Since 1989, three bills to liberalise the law on therapeutic grounds have been unsuccessful. The political climate is not favourable to changing the law. Conservatives have also not succeeded in making the law more punitive, while the governing centre-left coalition is divided and the associated political risks are considerable.

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