Chilean lawmakers vote to ease abortion ban

The bill passed Wednesday decriminalizes abortion in cases of rape, if the mother's life is at risk or if the fetus presents a deadly birth defect.

Story highlights

  • Abortion has been illegal without exception since 1989
  • President Bachelet campaigned on easing the ban

(CNN)Lawmakers in Chile voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to ease the country's strict restrictions on abortion after more than two years of debate.

The vote is a major victory for pro-choice supporters who have fought for decades against Chile's draconian ban on abortion. Since 1989, abortion has been illegal without exception.
The strict law was implemented by dictator Augusto Pinochet as one of his last acts in office. Activists have long criticized the ban.
    "The illegality of abortion in Chile takes a devastating toll on women's health and lives," a Human Right's Watch report stated. "The consequences of illegal abortion constitute a leading cause of maternal mortality in this country."
    The bill passed Wednesday decriminalizes abortion in cases of rape, if the mother's life is at risk or if the fetus presents a deadly birth defect.
    "A bill has been approved that opens up options for women," said Claudia Pascual Grau, Chile's minister of women and gender equity. "We have generated safe health benefits, an accompanying program that is with all women, regardless of the decision they take."