Chile lawmakers take 'first step' towards easing abortion rules

Lawmakers to discuss a bill that decriminalises abortion until the 14th week of gestation in Santiago
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By Fabian Cambero

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile's lower Chamber of Deputies approved on Tuesday a plan to debate a bill that would expand the legal access for women to get abortions, despite opposition from the South American country's center-right government.

The lower house passed the motion with 75 votes in favor versus 68 against and two abstentions, which allows it to move forward examining the bill that proposed legalizing termination of pregnancy up to 14 weeks.

The bill still faces a lengthy process before it could become law. Chile in 2017 legalized abortion for women under conditions where their life was in danger, a fetus was unviable or when a pregnancy had resulted from rape.

"We are happy and excited because we have taken a tremendous step, which we did not expect, to be honest, in terms of the rights of women," said lawmaker Maite Orsini, one of the promoters of the bill.

"This is a first step and we are not going to stop fighting until abortion is legal, free and safe for all women in Chile."

The bill will now have to be reviewed by the legislative body's Commission for Women and Gender Equity and then be voted on again in the Chamber of Deputies, before moving up to the Senate.

A number of countries around conservative Latin America have taken steps to decriminalize abortion, including Argentina last year and Mexico, where the Supreme Court unanimously ruled this month that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional.

(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Nick Macfie)

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