Uruguay Lawmakers Vote to Legalize Abortion
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay - Legislators have voted in Uruguay by a razor-thin margin to legalize abortion.
In Latin America, where the majority of people are Catholic, no country except Cuba has made abortions accessible to all women during the first trimester of pregnancy.
The vote in Uruguay’s Chamber of Deputies was 50-49 just before midnight Tuesday after several lawmakers on each side of the debate said they could not in good conscience go along with their parties, and allowed substitutes to vote in their stead.
President Jose Mujica says he will allow it to become law, if the Senate approves the changes. The Senate already has approved an even more liberal version of the abortion measure.
The Chamber of Deputies’ legislation would give women the right to a legal abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and decriminalize later-term abortions when the mother’s life is at risk or when the fetus is so deformed that it wouldn’t survive after birth. In cases of rape, abortions would be legal during the first 14 weeks.
Deputy Pablo Abdala of the opposition National Party vowed Wednesday to promote a popular referendum to overturn the law, if Mujica doesn’t veto it, calling the measure a violation of human rights.
However, polls suggest many more Uruguayans favor abortion rights than oppose them.
A survey this month showed 52 percent of Uruguayans would vote to legalize abortion if the question were put to the people, while 34 percent would vote against it. The survey of 802 people nationwide by the CIFRA consulting firm had a 3.4 percentage point margin of error.
Abortion rights advocates were disappointed by compromises made to secure the votes, including a requirement that women seeking abortions justify their request before a panel of at least three professionals - a gynecologist, psychologist and social worker - and listen to advice about alternatives including adoption and support services if she should decide to keep the baby. Then she must wait five more days "to reflect" on the consequences before the procedure.
Such bureaucratic barriers will only delay the procedures and force more women to seek illegal and dangerous abortions elsewhere, they said. Abortion rights advocates also were upset by a clause preventing any woman who hasn’t lived in the country for at least a year from obtaining abortions in Uruguay.