Abortion will always remain a controversial issue.

It is a criminal act in so many parts of the world.

But some countries are beginning to take another look at the issue especially in certain circumstances.

By the way, in Nigeria, it remains a NO-NO.

Chile's Congress on Wednesday eased a strict ban on abortion after about 30 years of absolute prohibition under no circumstances.

Still, it is no licence to kill babies. The measure, which passed with a 22-13 vote, only allows abortion in cases of rape, if the mother's life is at risk or if the baby presents a deadly birth defect.

The bill now awaits approval by a court.

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Until now, the South American country has been part of a small group of socially conservative nations that barred abortion under all circumstances -- including the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Gabon, Haiti, Malta, Nicaragua and the Philippines.

"We are satisfied. We have delivered alternatives, and safe health care options, to all women, regardless of the decisions they make," said Claudia Pascual, minister for women and gender equality.

In this deeply conservative country, the measure has been a priority for leftist President Michelle Bachelet, Chile's first woman president and a pediatrician by training.

Bachelet has worked since 2015 to overturn the strict ban on abortions put in place in 1989, in the final days of the Pinochet dictatorship.

Under current law, abortion is punishable by up to five years in prison.