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A Dangerous Place to Work: Chile's Abortion Hotline

Updated on January 9, 2013

Inside Chile's Safe Hot Line office for abortion, its workers usually wear masks if facing anyone from the outside the building. In Chile, you see, abortion is a crime. Yet, 120,000 of them still occur. Even in cases of rape or if the woman's life is in danger, abortion is frowned upon.

When a caller asks for help from the hotline adviser, they are are usually desperate. The standard advice given is the use of misoprostol, a drug that induces a safe abortion, an illegal activity. The drug was banned in Chile, yet it is widely available via the Internet and on the black market. One attorney who wanted to abort her baby paid $300 for the required 12 pills for a medical induced abortion. Buying the drugs is a clandestine affair filled with worry about getting busted and who is really who.

The hotline operates in a sort of "twilight zone" between social justice and criminal law from 7 to 11 p.m, and since 2009, over 12000 calls have been received. If the advisers go off "script" that is prepared by lawyers they face prison time. For abortion, the crime renders 5-10 years in prison for the woman, while doctors who assist face 15 years.

The hotline has 30 advisers and all are subject to various public anger when they are exposed. Abortion was allowed or tolerated in Chile until 1989, then it became a real crime in most circumstances.

Right now, the hotline has only a cell phone that is passed among the 30 volunteers. One step at a time.

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