Abstract Chile allows abortion under no circumstances. Whether it’s fetal anomaly incompatible with life or congenital malformation resulting in little or no life expectancy, all Chilean women are expected to carry their pregnancies to term. In this context, in January 2015 the Chilean Congress began debating a bill to legalize abortion on three grounds, including fatal congenital malformation. The medical community, including midwives, has presented its views for and against, especially on how the law may affect clinical practices; in addition, women, many of whom have experienced a fatal congenital malformation diagnosis, have weighed in. This qualitative study draws on 22 semi-structured interviews with nine certified nurse-midwives, one neonatologist, nine obstetrician-gynecologists, one psychiatrist, one psychologist, and one sociologist who provide care during gestation, pregnancy, delivery, and postdelivery in the public and private sectors, plus three interviews with two women and the former partner of a woman who underwent the experience. These interviews starkly illustrate the plight facing women carrying nonviable fetuses, including women’s shock upon receiving the diagnosis, their feelings of bereavement and loss, and the clinical practices used in an attempt to ease their suffering under the weight of exceedingly difficult legal restrictions. These interviews confirmed that compelling women to carry nonviable fetuses to term violates their human rights. They also show that the chances of legislative change are real and that such change will present new challenges to the Chilean health care system.
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Health and Human Rights 19, no. 1 (June 2017): 95-108.