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Osgerby: Overturning Chile's ban on abortion

BY PAUL OSGERBY | FEBRUARY 02, 2015 5:00 AM

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In Chile, President Michelle Bachelet has announced her plans to end a 26-year absolute ban on abortions — a law that has lingered since the final influences of a right-wing military dictatorship in the 1980s.

The practice of conducting or receiving an abortion is punishable of up to five years’ imprisonment.

“Chile had an important legal and public-health tradition, interrupted arbitrarily in the last days of the dictatorship,” Bachelet said.

If the new piece of legislation passes, abortion would be legal in instances of rape or potential fatal threats to the mother’s or child’s life. It doesn’t make any mention of stalling or scare anti-abortion tactics that are seen in the United States, such as making the mother consult the father even in the event of nonconsensual sex.

Unfortunately, the draft law will face opposition in the likes of the conservatives in Chile’s Congress, members of Bachelet’s Socialist Party, and the Catholic Church, which still holds considerable political power in the primarily Roman Catholic country.

As a male, I fully understand the difficulties of comprehending the controversial issue of abortion. It is an intricate topic. However, I feel strongly to make others aware that criminalizing abortion does not help eliminate the practice and, moreover, puts women’s lives at risk — Chile’s president has also said this. Additionally, abortion can be a beneficial means of protecting a woman’s life, whether it’s physically or emotionally.

That’s the most important aspect of the issue.

Unwanted and unexpected pregnancy, whether it’s through consensual or nonconsensual intercourse, places a huge burden on the mother, especially in our society in the United States. There are many different angles and arguments for or against a woman’s decision, but it must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

There will always be the argument about when human life begins, but the mother must be the one to decide what happens to her body. She also has every right to choose whom to address in making the decision of whether to abort and how that unfolds.

Having a child can be an emotionally scary process. Raising a child is financially burdensome as well as an obviously long-term process. Not every un-expecting mother feels ready to make that sort of commitment, and she has the inherent right to decide if she is willing to go through with that or not.

For Chile to finally make moves to end a long-standing ban on what I see as a violation of basic human rights, it’s at least a step toward the right direction. I would like to see Chile repeal this ban further and become a catalyst in changing the rest of Latin America, where many countries place strict limits on abortion, and seven countries uphold an absolute ban.

What occurs to a woman’s body is ultimately her decision to address, not subjected to a political or religious institutions.


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