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Controversial Campaign for DIY Abortions Shocks Chile, Highlighting Need For Reform

One of the graphic videos suggests women should purposefully fall down stairs to induce an abortion in Chile, where the procedure is totally criminalized and has not been reformed since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship.

by Andrea Noel
May 28 2015, 10:05pm

Screenshot via YouTube

"Walk calmly by the traffic light, wait, and when it is about to turn yellow, pick the car most likely to speed up," says an actress playing a young pregnant woman, before walking into oncoming traffic in a video that has gone viral in Chile.

"Make sure the car hits you head-on — stomach to bumper — and then cross the street."

The intentionally violent simulated images depicted in a series of videos labeled "abortion tutorials" are modeled after online how-to clips, and are clearly meant to draw attention to Chile's anti-abortion laws, considered some of the most restrictive in the world.

"In Chile an accidental abortion is the only kind of abortion that is not considered a crime," is the message that concludes three controversial videos that offer staged scenarios for "accidentally" terminating a pregnancy — lunging into oncoming traffic, hurling yourself down a flight of stairs, or intentionally falling stomach first onto a fire hydrant.

The organization behind the controversial campaign, Miles Chile, Spanish for Thousands Chile, said it created the ads to further its mission of protecting women's reproductive rights.

Claudia Dides, the organization's director, explained that besides the countless women victimized by Chile's total ban on abortion, she too has been personally affected.

"I have had two clandestine abortions," Dides said in an interview with the news agency EFE, citing health reasons. "It's torture what they are doing to the women of Chile, not allowing them to abort."

As Chile debates a bill introduced in January to decriminalize therapeutic abortion, Miles Chile is hoping to guilt legislators into approving the bill, by publicly highlighting the absurd situation many women face without access to the right to decide.

"Women are treated like we are criminals," Dides said. "No one likes to get an abortion. It doesn't make anyone happy to do so. It's a complicated decision."

Related: Conservative Chile Moves to Legalize Abortion and Same-Sex Civil Unions

Chile allowed therapeutic abortions from 1931 until 1989, when the practice was criminalized under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. But many are hoping that women in Chile could soon see changes in current abortion policy.

Though facing severe opposition, the reform bill is backed by President Michelle Bachelet — Chile's first female president, now in her second term — and if passed, would legalize the procedure in certain circumstances: when the fetus is malformed or unlikely to survive, in instances of rape, and in cases where the mother's life is endangered by carrying to full term.

Related: 10-Year-Old Girl Raped by Stepfather Is Refused an Abortion in Paraguay

Separately, international human rights groups sounded alarms this week about restrictive abortion laws across heavily Catholic Latin America. On Thursday, Amnesty International said the region's abortion laws were outdated, discriminatory, and "draconian."

Among the cases unfolding in Latin America, a ten-year-old girl in Paraguay is being forced to carry her fetus — the product of alleged repeated rape by the girl's stepfather — to term, in spite of the obvious risks for the young rape survivor. The case has been met with international disdain while rights organizations have unsuccessfully attempted to force government intervention.

Argentina's abortion laws, though less restrictive than many other countries in Latin America, were also criticized. The leading cause of maternal death in the country, at more than 30 percent, is complications due to clandestine abortions.

El Salvador has been criticized for imprisoning women for having miscarriages, and other pregnancy-related "crimes."

"Shockingly, the ban [in El Salvador] extends even to cases where the life of the pregnant woman is at risk," Amnesty International said in a statement. "Those too ill to safely carry a pregnancy to term face an impossible choice: trapped between potential jail if they have an abortion or a death sentence if they do nothing."

Amnesty International has called for sweeping reforms in abortion law in Latin America. There are currently seven countries in the region with total bans on abortion: the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Suriname, El Salvador, and Chile.

Related: Argentina's Doctors Perform Half a Million Illegal Abortions a Year, But Legalization Still Seems Unlikely

Follow Andrea Noel on Twitter @MetabolizedJunk.