[JURIST] Chilean President Michelle Bachelet [Forbes profile] on Saturday announced a plan to end the country’s complete ban on abortions. Bachelet stated in a televised address [YouTube video] that she has sent a bill to Congress that would allow abortion when a mother’s life is at risk, a fetus will not survive pregnancy or when a woman is raped. Chile, a conservative and predominately Roman Catholic country, initiated its complete ban on abortion in 1990 under dictator Augusto Pinochet [WP report]. The ban, which imposes a punishment of up to five years in prison, has been challenged a few times since its inception with little success. Estimates as to how many illegal abortions are performed each year are disparate, ranging from 15,000 to 160,000. Bachelet stated in her address, “I know this is a sensitive issue. … There isn’t always agreement on issues that relate to each person’s conscience.”
Abortion [JURIST news archive] continues to be a hotly debated topic in the US and around the world. Last week a group of UN human right experts urged [JURIST report] El Salvador to pardon all women jailed for illegal abortions as a result of pregnancy complications or rape. Earlier this month the US House of Representatives passed a bill [JURIST report] that would ban abortions supported by federal funding. In December the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed [JURIST report] a lower court decision that the Woman’s Right to Know Act, which requires physicians to display and describe ultrasound images to women seeking abortions, is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. Also in December the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission announced [JURIST report] that it plans to file a lawsuit challenging the country’s law against abortions.