Abortion in Chile

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On Wednesday the Diario Austral reported that an 18-year-old girl induced labor sevem months into her pregnancy. The child breathed once before the mother strangled it with a shoestring, wrapped the bloody fetus in blankets and stuffed it into her closet, leaving it there for two days until her friend who she'd confided in couldn't take it any longer and turned her in. When the cops showed up they freaked out, the paper reports.

Chile continues to reap the fruit of Pinochet's labor: despite the current president being a woman, single mother, atheist and liberal, there's absolutely no initiative to legalize abortion. The Catholic right has pitched the battle on the 10 yard line, fighting tooth and nail to keep the morning after pill off the shelves, and they're winning.

Chile is well within the the wake of the military regime's 17 years of intense, targeted destruction of leftist organization. The dictatorship ended in 1990, and 2001 saw the first legal proceedings against a National Stadium torturer (by then a professor of political at Chile's prestigious Catholic University).

Despite a majority of poor who are happy to vote for a leftist president every four years, there is no real leftist constituency. The right continues to call the shots economically, militarily and socially. Business. Army. Church.

While Santiago is the focus of a Yale study naming it one of Latin America's three most dangerously polluted cities, Bachelet's party just now created a cabinet-level environmental position, to be filled by some pro-business crony. And that's after 17 years of "democacy."

Adhering to Pinochet's 1980 constitution, 10% of all copper revenues (not profits, revenues) still goes to bolstering Chile's already exaggerated military prowess. Meanwhile, the quality of education is rock bottom.

And at this year's Viña del Mar festival, Chilean rock band Los Tres displayed video installation featuring the words "On the Eighth Day, God Created the Morning After Pill." It was a pro-contraception message, although the the papers call it "pro-abortion". The video created an immediate uproar among the producers of the Catholic University-owned Canal 13, who censored the images in their live broadcast. Canal 13 also has ties to the Catholic Church, still a major constituency influencing public policy.

Not only is abortion illegal in Chile, but a simple act of free expression promoting pregnancy prevention has been censored by Chile's biggest television station. Every national AIDs prevention campaign is accompanied by equal airtime and side columns decrying the condom and promoting abstinence, all sponsored by the Catholic Church.

And as far as they're concerned, the pill is abortion. The Clinic reports that a small supply of the morning after pill first arrived in Chile in 2001, and anyone could buy it at a pharmacy with a prescription.

But in 2004 the government overstepped the bounds by ordering 36 thousand pills for poor people facing medical emergencies, like rape. Or incest. Girls 14 and up can get the pill without consulting their parents. That's law. Reacting to this affront, however, the Catholic right successfully pressured Chilean pharmacies to stop manufacturing and selling the pill. The government hasn't bought any new pills, and the small supply at the pharmacies, if any, will have been imported from Mexico, Peru and Columbia. But it's pretty much impossible to find the pill at a pharmacy, The Clinic reports. And the alternative, slamming back up to 50 normal birth control pills, may no longer be available as conservatives are already presenting the case before the court to remove normal birth control pills from the market.

In the same issue, The Clinic published a letter of a girl's nightmarish journey through Santiago on a Sunday, looking for Prostinor (the morning after pill), which was nowhere to be found, in either pharmacies or public health centers. She talks about the looks given her, as if she were a "sexual pervert" for asking.

In this cultural context, the horrific strangulation of a recently born child implicates Chile's right as much as the girl. Catholics in control of Chilean public policy are promulgating societal filthiness -- AIDS, teen pregnancy, uncounted Misotrol abortions carried out without medical supervision and a shoestring strangulation.

Catholics need to back down and let Chile move into the modernity it prematurely claims. Keep religion in the Church, because it's not working in the real world.

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