Congratulations to Alejandra Otero Ruiz, an International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law scholar at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, on the successful completion of her Master of Laws thesis in 2013. We are pleased to provide the following abstract of her work. The author can be reached at aleja.otero \a/ gmail.com
Proposal to Request the Unconstitutionality of the Provisions that Criminalize Abortion in Chile
by Alejandra Otero Ruiz, LL.M.
Chile is the only country in South America that criminalizes abortion in all circumstances. However, during the last century, this country had not only a particularly liberal legislation on the issue of abortion: allowing the termination of the life of the unborn up to 12 weeks of gestation for therapeutic reasons, but also was a pioneer in the respect and promotion of sexual and reproductive health of women in the Americas. During Pinochet´s military dictatorship – which lasted almost seventeen years- the legislation regarding abortion remained as liberal as it was, but just when the regime was about to finish its mandate, abortion became criminalized in every single circumstance. The prohibition has remained the same ever since.
This paper examines the origin of the criminalization provisions in light of the constitutional mandate to protect the life of the unborn; it presents an overview of the arguments used so far in the legislature to request the partial decriminalization of abortion; the tendency of the executive in the past years in this matter; and the criminal strategy that has been used in cases where women have been prosecuted by abortion. The examination concludes with a proposed judicial advocacy strategy aimed to challenge the constitutionality of the law that imposes an absolute prohibition on abortion in Chile, based on what has been intended so far. The paper concludes with a request to declare unconstitutional the criminal abortion provisions because they violate women’s rights to equal treatment and because they do not comply with the constitutional mandate to protect the life of the unborn.