An Intern's Journey: Fighting for Choice in Chile

I am now more than halfway through my internship researching abortion at el Instituto de Investigación en Ciencias Sociales at la Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile. I have been working with Lidia Casas, an expert on abortion at the university's law faculty, and also with Alejandra Ramm, a professor and sociologist at the Observatorio de Desigualdades. They have been amazing mentors – recommending books and guiding my research so that we can build the case for the legalization of las tres causales, which would allow abortion in cases of risk to the health or life of the mother, fetal inviability and rape. Although this is comparatively not the most liberal of abortion laws, it is a huge step for Chile, where abortion has been illegal for decades, a legacy left from Pinochet's dictatorship.

Intern Jessica Tueller (Front row, right) with fellow Harvard students on Cerro San Cristóbal in Chile.

Arguing for less restrictive laws has proved politically costly because of the strength of the Catholic church and also because the negative effects of illegal abortion are felt mainly by poor women – those with more resources can afford to have safe and secretive abortions, and thus are less likely to press for change. The next vote on abortion will be in the Cámara de Diputados (Chilean equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives) and has been scheduled for August 4. I will have left by then, but I will be following the vote closely from afar.

Even outside of the internship, living in Santiago has been incredible. Since my internship is co-sponsored by the David Rockefeller Center, I have had the added bonuses of living with a host family and of exploring Chile with other Harvard students on the weekends. I have now seen all three of Pablo Neruda’s houses, the view of all of Santiago from the top of Cerro San Cristóbal, the giant chemamülles at the Museo de Arte Precolombino, and much, much more.

My Spanish has improved dramatically, I have learned more about abortion than I could have imagined and my research feels both relevant and rewarding. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend such an amazing summer here, and I hope to make the most of my remaining three weeks.

Blog entry courtesy of the Institute of Politics

Written by: Jessica Tueller '18
Summer Internship Program in Chile
Internship site: Instituto de Investigación en Ciencias Sociales (ICSO) at Universidad Diego Portales