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A critical review of conscientious objection and decriminalisation of abortion in Chile
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  • Published on:
    Lessons learnt from the past: “Conscientious objection” to abortion in Chile will lead to widespread disobedience of the new law
    • Joyce H Arthur, Executive Director Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada
    • Other Contributors:
      • Christian Fiala, Gynecologist

    By Christian Fiala and Joyce H Arthur

    Authors Montero and Villarroel discuss problems that might arise from “conscientious objection” (CO) to the new law in Chile that legalized abortion in cases of life endangerment of the woman, fatal fetal abnormality, and rape. (“A critical review of conscientious objection and decriminalisation of abortion in Chile”, Jan 6). The law provides the “right” to exercise CO, with the only caveat that health institutions are required to immediately refer patients to non-objecting practitioners. We share the authors’ concerns that conscientious objection may prove be quite widespread in Chile with the new law. In fact, we argue it will create serious, widespread problems for access to safe and legal abortion, despite the referral requirement.

    Of course, in a Catholic-dominated country like Chile with a total abortion ban, the new law represents a major advance, and it will undoubtedly help many women. We appreciate the challenges and hard work to get the law passed and acknowledge it may have been difficult to do so without CO as a political compromise. Unfortunately, last-minute lobbying by Catholic hospitals resulted in a court’s expansion of the CO clause in the law, giving the “right” of CO to not just doctors, but also support workers and even institutions (when only individuals can have a conscience). This law will be very difficult to reverse and women will suffer the consequences.[1]

    The authors rightly recogniz...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.