Chileans Vote to Defend Life and Family

It is painful to note that under the pretext of guaranteeing presumed subjective rights, a growing number of legal systems in our world seem to be moving away from their inalienable duty to protect human life at every one of its phases. ― Pope Francis

In a huge victory, the Chilean people have overwhelmingly rejected a radical draft constitution that would have made abortion a “right” in the majority-Catholic nation.

The new constitution was championed by the nation’s radical left President Gabriel Boric. Drafted by a constitutional assembly in an often-contentious process, the document contained a smorgasbord of progressive proposals, including enforced gender parity in government, various environmental regulations, and the introduction of universal healthcare and other social programs.

However, the most divisive proposals included one to legalize abortion without restriction, as well as others that would have opened the door to euthanasia and assisted suicide, redefined the family in ambiguous ways, and protected Chileans’ right to choose their own identity, “in all its dimensions and manifestations, including sexual characteristics, gender identities and expressions.”

The perverse mentality behind the rejected draft was nowhere more evident in the fact that, on the one hand, it would grant various “rights” to nature and other sentient beings, while throwing the doors open to the legalized killing of unborn human children.

As the New York Times put it, “The proposed changes had looked to remake one of the most conservative countries in Latin America into one of the world’s most left-leaning societies.”

But Chileans were having none of it. Although polls prior to the vote showed that the constitution would most likely be defeated, political experts were stunned by the magnitude of the defeat. In the end, a 62% majority of Chilean voters voted no, with a mere 38% voting yes.

The vote is a resounding blow to Boric’s staunchly progressive government. And for pro-life Chileans the vote is a sign of hope that their nation will not give a foothold to the radical pro-abortion forces that have been targeting Catholic South America for decades now.

Constanza Saavedra, the director of the Chilean pro-life group Testimonios por la Vida, gave voice to the feelings of so many pro-life Chileans when she posted on Twitter after the vote:

With joy and hope in a better Chile, with changes that unite us, seeking to improve the quality of life for all, surpassing ourselves and moving forward, leaving setbacks, divisions and hatred behind. A Chile in which we can all continue to proudly say: Viva Chile!

 

Chile’s Bishops Fought Hard

Prior to the vote, the country’s Catholic bishops had made no secret about where they stood on the draft constitution.

Although the legalization of abortion was only one of several concerning aspects of the document, the nation’s bishops conference issued a strongly-worded statement singling out and denouncing the abortion-related proposal.

In the March 16 statement – released the day after the Constitutional Convention approved the proposal to make abortion a right – the bishops expressed alarm that the proposal placed “no conditions or limitations” on the supposed “right” to abortion. This, they noted, would make any law restricting abortion unconstitutional, with the result that preborn children could be aborted even up to the point of birth.

Currently, abortion is only legal in Chile in a small number of cases, including when the mother’s life is at risk, cases of rape, or likely-fatal health problems in the preborn child. Even these exceptions were only legalized in 2017. Prior to then, abortion was completely illegal. Thus, the constitution would have utterly demolished protections for the preborn, transforming the nation overnight from one of the most pro-life to one of the most pro-abortion.

“The Convention affirms a right to decide freely and autonomously about one’s own body,” the bishops said in their statement, “but forgets and is completely silent about the fact that in the womb of someone who is pregnant there is a second body, another human being, which for those who approved the regulation simply does not exist.”

In a prophetic passage, the bishops warned the drafters of the constitution that the Chilean people would not support such a radical position:

A Political Constitution with a regulation about free abortion cannot be felt and assumed as their own by many Chileans, among them many people who profess religious faith, since respect for human life from conception is not something secondary or whose consideration is optional, but a fundamental value that we affirm, supported by reason and faith. If this decision is not changed, the Constitutional Convention places an insurmountable obstacle for many citizens to give their approval to the constitutional text that is being drafted.

In a separate statement put out in July, the bishops praised some of the proposals for seeking to protect the rights of the vulnerable and marginalized, but blasted others that they warned would radically remake society.

“We negatively evaluate the norms that allow the interruption of pregnancy, those that leave open the possibility of euthanasia, those that disfigure the understanding of the family, those that restrict the freedom of parents on the education of their children, and those that pose some limitations on the right to education and religious freedom,” they said.

In that statement, they also noted that the constitution posed a serious threat to conscience rights, disallowing the “essential right” of conscientious objection to participation in abortion. They also labeled the possibility of allowing euthanasia “dehumanizing,” warning that “it encourages a throwaway culture and can make the lives of people already weakened by illness even more fragile.”

Immediately after the vote, Bishop Isauro Covili Linfati of Iquique, Chile, put out a statement celebrating the vote, saying that “democracy has won.”

The bishop lamented that in drafting the constitution, its creators did not consult “important institutions” such as the Catholic Church. Instead, “a minority intended to impose its vision and its will.” “It is a text that, despite having very good themes, was destined not to be accepted by the majority, especially for introducing abortion on demand and euthanasia among other issues,” he said.

 

The Fight Continues

In response to the defeat of the first draft constitution, President Boric has recommended that the drafters go back to the drawing board and try again.

“Chileans’ decision demands our institutions and political leaders to work harder, with more dialogue, respect and care, until we reach a proposal that reflects us all,” he said.

As many commentators have pointed out, Chileans are strongly supportive of creating a new constitution. The nation’s current constitution was put in place in 1980, during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. In 2020, a full 80% of Chileans voted in favor of scrapping the old constitution and beginning again.

However, by rejecting the draft constitution, the Chilean people have sent a strong message that they would rather have a deeply flawed constitution put in place by a dictator, than one that is so contemptuous of their national values. Certainly, they will have nothing to do with a constitution that would throw an entire segment of their population – the preborn – to the wolves.

The New York Times quoted one Chilean woman who had voted in 2020 to draft a new constitution, but then voted against the final proposal. “It was a fiasco, an embarrassment what they did,” she said. “The constitution they wrote is not the constitution of Chile, of the Chilean people. It is the constitution of one group.”

For Chile, the battle has been won, but the war is still being fought, and will no doubt be fought for years to come.

Many far-left NGOs in the developed world were fully behind the draft constitution. One need only glance at the English media coverage of the vote to see just how disappointed many progressives outside Chile are. Clearly, they had hoped that President Boric’s presidency marked a sea change in Latin American politics, and that Chile could become the staging ground for a revolution throughout the region.

In their March statement opposing the pro-abortion proposal, the bishops warned the Chilean people that a “mentality contrary to life of the child already conceived” has been “imposed” on their nation.

Those wealthy and powerful NGOs that have been working so hard to impose this anti-life mentality will not give up so easily. While we can expect the next version of the constitution to be more “moderate” in certain respects, I would be shocked if it does not attempt to achieve abortion-on-demand, with perhaps some token language permitting some few, meaningless restrictions.

Pro-life Chileans must fight until all language that would “liberalize” the nation’s abortion laws is utterly excluded from the document. Even better, they must work to include language that explicitly protects the right of the preborn. After all, a successful constitution should protect the rights of all, not some.

And they (indeed, all of us) must firmly reject any language that would open the door to euthanasia and assisted suicide, to the redefinition of marriage and the family, to the restriction of the rights of parents to educate their children in accordance with their beliefs and values and religious freedom, and the acceptance of gender identity and its mindset. Resolutely, pro-life and family Chileans must work to promote language and laws that defend intrinsic human dignity and its incomparable value, while also proclaiming and witnessing to the true meaning of marriage and its value for persons, families, and society – rejecting any radical ideology that would seek to undermine and/or falsify these goods.

For now, the Chilean people have sent a powerful message to Boric and his ilk that they will not be hoodwinked. Let us pray that they continue to stand firm against the machinations of the anti-life forces that are seeking to claim Chile for their own.



About Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing hli@hli.org.

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