Ads Show Women How to Give Themselves ‘Accidental’ Abortions

In Chile, an accidental abortion is the only kind of abortion that’s not a crime

In July 2013 a horrifying story of an 11-year-old Chilean girl, who was raped and impregnated by her mother’s boyfriend, sparked a national debate in Chile over its total ban on abortion. “Belen,” as the girl was known in the media, could not terminate her pregnancy because abortion in all cases is illegal in Chile. It’s not only criminal; it’s punishable by up to 5 years in jail.

Chile’s president at the time, Sebastian Pinera, praised the girl for her “depth and maturity” for keeping the child. Outraged, nearly 5,000 pro-choice activists took to the streets of Santiago and demonstrators ransacked a local cathedral.

It’s estimated that between 100,000 to 150,000 illegal abortions take place in Chile each year. Chilean NGO La Lorado estimates that 35 percent of pregnancies in the country end in abortion and that 40 percent are performed on girls younger than 18 years old.

Chile’s restrictive abortion law is considered one of the most stringent in the world. While most Latin American countries limit abortion, Chile is one of five countries where abortion is illegal in all instances including incest, rape, and even if the life of the mother is endangered.

Chile’s current President Michelle Bachelet, a physician by training, has proposed legislation that would ease the total ban and legalize abortion in cases of rape, unviable pregnancies or when the mother’s life is at risk, but so far the bill hasn’t picked up much traction. The legislature faces fierce opposition from the Catholic Church, conservatives and even members of Bachelet’s Socialist Party. This isn’t the first time that legislation has been introduced to legalize “therapeutic abortions.” In fact, twelve bills to decriminalize abortion have been introduced since 1991.

Abortion in all circumstances was never allowed in Chile, but therapeutic abortion was legal from 1931–1989. The absolute prohibition has existed since 1989 when dictator General Augusto Pinochet criminalized the procedure days before he left office.

In Chile, an accidental abortion is the only kind of abortion that is not considered a crime. The Miles Corporation, an organization supporting a woman’s right to safe therapeutic abortions, has launched a video campaign series that shows the extremes women will go to terminate their unwanted pregnancies. The advertising agency Grey Chile created provocative videos, which at first glance, seem like breezy online tutorials found on YouTube. The reality of what the videos are teaching is chilling.

In the three separate videos we see women calmly explaining how to create an accident that will end their pregnancy. One video shows a woman chopping off her high heel so that she will trip and crash into a fire hydrant. In another video, we see a woman discussing how to violently fall down the stairs. A third tutorial has a woman explaining how to strategically step in front of a car at a traffic light and get hit with your stomach facing the vehicle.

“We know it’s a strong campaign, but it is completely in tune with the reality of Chile. There was a time when midwives used to share tips on how to do it. But nowadays people are doing it through social media. There are several videos online, believe it or not,” said Claudia Dides, the director of the Miles Corporation.

Dides says that this series is aimed at educating the population about the issue and to lobby lawmakers to approve the Therapeutic Abortion Bill introduced by President Bachelet in February.