Chile has traditionally been a bastion of Catholicism. The strong influence of the Catholic Church is a direct result of the Spanish crown, and the “patronato real”, an agreement that gave the Spanish throne and, by extension, the colonial authorities significant powers in church affairs (for example appointments of clergy and bishops required the approval of civil authorities). This relationship was cemented in the 1833 constitution, which made Roman Catholicism the established church of the new Chilean republic.
The 1992 census showed that 77% of the population fourteen years of age and older declared itself Catholic, while 13% percent declared itself either Evangelical (the term Evangelical in the country is used to refer to all non-Catholic Christian churches with the exception of the Orthodox, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses) or Protestant. Chile’s cultural conservativeness (a direct result of the strong Catholic tradition) has lead to one of the world's most restrictive laws on abortion and divorce.
Abortion has constituted a crime in Chile. The 1874 penal code prohibits abortion in all cases. In 1931, the Codigo Sanitario (national health law) gave doctors the possibility to provide abortions, without criminal penalties for the doctor or the woman, where necessary to safe the pregnant woman's health or life (so-called "therapeutic abortion.") According to this law, a woman needed the consent of two doctors to obtain a non-punishable abortion. In 1989, President Pinochet annulled this statutory exception to the general illegality of abortion as one of his last acts in office. The national health law now prohibits abortion in all circumstances. However things are beginning to change - in late 2005, the Chilean Supreme Court of Justice authorised the sale of Postinor II, a "morning after pill," which is sold in some pharmacies against medical prescriptions that are retained on file.
Chile didn't legalize divorce until the 11th of March 2004, in great part due to the influence of the Church which effectively blocked the law for over nine years. Chile had been one of the last countries in the world, where divorce is legally forbidden (the law forbidding divorce was passed in 1884). The Church tried to kill the law by creating moral pressure on Parliament members. In an aggressive television advertising campaign, the Church claimed the law would strain the institution of family ("Chile wants a united family. Let's not divide it" was the main claim of the campaign), even threatening ex-communication to Catholic parliamentarians who voted in its favour.
Discussions on the morality of these laws and events will continue for a very long time. However, a central question and matter of Dark Matter Politics is the role and influence of the Chilean church in the advancement of women’s interests in the country.