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Chile Congress lifts abortion ban




Chile's Congress on Wednesday eased a strict ban on abortion in effect since the final days of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship nearly three decades ago.

The measure, which passed with a 22-13 vote in the Senate, allows abortion in cases of rape, if the mother's life is at risk or if the fetus presents a deadly birth defect.

It now awaits a ruling by the Constitutional Court at the request of the opposition.

Until now, the South American country has been part of a small group of socially conservative nations that barred abortion under all circumstances -- including the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Gabon, Haiti, Malta, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Senegal.

"We are satisfied. We have delivered alternatives, and safe health care options, to all women, regardless of the decisions they make," said Claudia Pascual, minister for women and gender equality.

In this deeply conservative country, the measure has been a priority for leftist President Michelle Bachelet, Chile's first woman president and a pediatrician by training.

Bachelet has worked since 2015 to overturn the strict ban on abortions put in place in1989, in the final days of the Pinochet dictatorship.

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