Pope, Chile's Bachelet discuss right to life

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VATICAN CITY, Oct 18 (Reuters) Pope Benedict met Chilean President Michelle Bachelet today for 40 minutes of talks covering political issues in Latin America, human rights, and the right to life, the Vatican said.

Bachelet, Chile's first woman president, clashed with the Catholic Church earlier this year by approving a law giving girls aged 14 and above the right to a ''morning-after pill'' free of charge and without parental consent.

Abortion is illegal in Chile, and the morning-after pill was previously available only by prescription to those who could afford it. Girls between 14 and 18 needed parental consent.

The Catholic Church, which teaches that life starts at the moment of conception and that such pills are a form of artificial contraception, condemned the law.

The Church holds strong sway in a nation that has a conservative, conformist reputation in Latin America, and the law, which the government said would help poorer girls avoid unwanted pregnancies, was approved only after bitter debate.

REUTERS SKB MIR KP1923

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