Home Institution

Washington University in St. Louis

Publication Date

Spring 2016

Program Name

Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment


Research Question: What factors influence the pro-life and pro-choice perspectives of university students in Santiago, Chile? What are these perspectives? Objectives: The general objective of this study is to describe the pro-life and pro-choice perspectives on abortion held by university students in Santiago, Chile, and to describe how factors such as feminism, religion, and the right to life influence these views today. The specific objectives of this study are to define and analyze the way in which these factors work to influence students’ perspectives, as well as identify what percentage of students currently support various types of abortion.

Background: Chile is one of the six countries in the world with the most restrictive abortion laws, forbidding abortions in all cases. There are a variety of factors within Chilean society, from the influence of the Catholic church to the rise of third-wave feminism, that have the potential to impact an individual’s view on abortion, and it is important to understand how these factors operate to obtain a better understanding of Chile’s current social climate. Methodology: 36 students from La Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, La Universidad Alberto Hurtado, y La Universidad de Santiago de Chile were surveyed with a questionnaire that included both open and close-ended questions, either via a Google form or in-person. To avoid potential bias, the surveyed population contained an equal amount of males and females, and an equal distribution of students across both all three universities and all four surveyed majors (anthropology, art, engineering, and business). To better analyze the quantitative data obtained through this questionnaire, semi structured interviews were then conducted with 7 professionals and activists in the field of abortion legislation and advocacy.

Results: Overall, the majority of the population supported abortion in all cases, with the highest amount of support for “when the woman’s life is at risk” and “when it is clear that the fetus will not survive outside of the uterus” (86%), and the lowest amount of support for “in any case” (53%). Only 11% of respondents agreed with the current legislation. On an individual basis, religion, the woman’s right to live, and the right to choose significantly influenced when participants felt abortion should be permissible. The right to life of the fetus, the woman’s right to live, and the right to choose influenced the most respondents. Feminism neither significantly impacted individual responses nor influenced a majority of respondents.

Conclusions: Overall, the surveyed population presented a view far more liberal than the current legislation, suggesting that a policy change is likely. The most influential factors within this population were the right to life of the woman, and the woman’s right to choose. Pro-choice advocates will most likely focus on advancing this rhetoric, rather than feminist rhetoric, when seeking to engage a wider Chilean audience. On the opposite pole, the right to life of the fetus influenced far more people than religion, and will most likely be the future direction of the pro-life campaign.


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Health Policy | Public Health | Religion | Women's Studies


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