To circumvent legal problems, many women seek an unsafe abortion and may be injured from it, necessitating hospitalization. Once hospitalized, a woman may be reported to the police and imprisoned. In order to counter this problem, the Chilean Government started supporting family planning activities in the mid-1960s. This has caused the incidence of illegal abortion and related deaths to decline: deaths due to abortion complications dropped from 118 to 24 per 100,000 live births between 1964 and 1979. From 1990 to 2000, the maternal mortality rate related to unsafe abortion dropped further, contributing to a 60.3% reduction of the total maternal mortality rate during this time period.
A study focused on women and abortion between 1983-1984 (time of military dictatorship) and 1990-1991 (transition to democracy) in four cities in Chile, most women arrested and imprisoned for abortion were undereducated, low-income, between the ages of 18-29, and were culled from public hospitals after seeking medical treatment for botched illegal abortions (92% of all reports were from public hospitals). Nearly half of all women did not have a partner. Hospital conditions were markedly hostile. When a woman entered a public hospital, rather than primarily focusing on injuries and treatment related to abortion complications, public hospital staff interrogated her. At times it was mandatory to gain a confession from her before administering the proper medical treatment. It was not unheard of for hospital staff to report a woman to the police who was experiencing a miscarriage. Pregnant women with higher socioeconomic status enjoyed the benefits of private hospitals of whom none reported any of the women seeking treatment from them. When prosecuted, women of low socioeconomic status were often not provided with a defense attorney in the court system. Only 38% had legal assistance whereas 60% had no legal defense at all. .
The illegality of therapeutic abortion extends to cases of tubal or ectopic pregnancy. Although embryos implanted in the fallopian tube cannot survive, the law requires waiting until the final stage of pregnancy before termination, risking the womans's health and raising the probability of the loss of a fallopian tube.
The topic has not yet been discussed in the Senate of Chile since the introduction of the law.
A July 2006 MORI survey found that 26% of Chileans believed that abortion is "justified" while 74% believe that it is not.