The recent resignation of Health Minister Helia Molina has caused commotion in Chilean political circles. Molina took the action after she controversially stated that certain cuicos (Chilean upper-class types) perform illegal abortions.
She suggested that, given their economic status, these citizens are effectively above the law, and can do whatever they want. It was a bold claim, given that Chile has one of the most stringent legal frameworks against abortion in the world.
When one looks deeper, these statements made by Molina — and the damage control taken by the Bachelet administration — are clever political machinations to distract the populace from the more serious issues that affect them. Sprinkle in a bit of class-conflict rhetoric, and you have the perfect political smoke screen to get the masses riled up.
This is akin to the use of wedge issues — such as gay marriage and abortion, in the United States — to divert attention from key economic issues and civil liberties. Unfortunately, “politics as usual” is a dynamic that rings true around the world.
One thing is certain: it’s highly unlikely there will be substantial reforms in the realm of abortion, given the cultural and political gridlock that would likely face.
The Bachelet administration is, however, treading on thin ice elsewhere. The administration’s new tax and labor reforms have generated vast economic uncertainty and anticipated decreases in foreign investment. In the same vein, teacher unions from the very coalition that Bachelet leads have marched in protest of her education reform package.
With mounting unpopularity, the Bachelet administration needed something to divert the spotlight from her and her increasingly controversial reforms. The Molina incident did just the trick. Not only did it divert attention, it served as a Trojan horse for more government involvement in the medical sector.
Molina’s recourse class-warfare rhetoric was a clever maneuver to rile up public sentiment in favor of a more interventionist approach to solving the “inequality crisis” in healthcare provision.
Molina may be out of the picture, but she definitely served her purpose in promoting Bachelet’s more interventionist agenda.
Abortion is no laughing matter. I consider myself pro-life and believe that the state and civil society should take adequate measures to prevent it. At the same time, when it’s very clear that this legal framework won’t be overturned any time soon, these recent developments reek of an ulterior motive.
Politically aware citizens would be wise to look beyond the smoke and mirrors of these wedge issues. They only divert attention from crucial issues that affect all citizens, which in the Chilean case, consists of growing state involvement in the economy and civil society.
Unfortunately, that is the deceptive nature of the state. On guard, citizens!
Edited by Guillermo Jimenez and Fergus Hodgson.