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Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 7:05 am

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — 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.

“This is not the law for which we fought for more than 25 years,” complained Marta Agunin, who directs Women and Health, a non-governmental organization in Uruguay.

Her group staged a colorful protest outside Congress during the debate and more than a dozen women posed in the nude in extremely cold weather, their bodies painted orange with purple flowers.

Deputy Alvaro Vega with the ruling Broad Front coalition said it would be better to simply eliminate criminal penalties for first-term abortions, and leave such decisions up to individual women alone. But in the end, every member of the lower house who supports abortion rights voted in favor of the measure.

The goal is to reduce the number of illegal abortions in Uruguay, said Deputy Ivan Posada of the small center-left Independent Party, who authored the measure and provided the key tie-breaking vote.

“They talk of 30,000 a year, a hypothetical number, but whatever the number is, it’s quite dramatic for a country where 47,000 children are born each year,” Posada explained in an Associated Press interview.

The review panel should obtain the father’s point of view, but only if the woman agrees. Women under 18 must show parental consent, but they can seek approval from a judge instead if they’re unwilling or unable to involve their parents in the decision.

The measure also allows entire private health care institutions, as well as individual health care providers, to decline to perform abortions.

Opponents include Uruguay’s Catholic and evangelical institutions, which along with public hospitals provide much of the available health care in Uruguay.

Cuba, which decriminalizes abortions in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, is the only country in Latin America where legal abortion is common. Argentina and Colombia allow it only in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is endangered. Colombia also allows it when there is proof of fetal malformation. Mexico City has legalized first-trimester abortions, but there are restrictions in most other parts of the country.

Many countries ban abortions under any conditions.

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September 11, 2012 News

 

On September 10th, the special commission created to analyze various versions of voluntary interruption of pregnancy bills in the House of Representatives, approved a bill that will be considered for a full House vote on September 25th, where 50 affirmative votes are needed to pass.  If it passes, it will be sent to the Senate for its final approval.

 

The bill approved by the commission was based on a proposal by the Independent congressman Iván Posada.  While the law has been touted as a “decriminalization” law, in truth it states that penalties for the “crime of abortion” set out in a 1938 law will not be applied if the woman complies with a series of steps in a health institution affiliated with the National Integrated Health System.   The second article of the project states: “The interruption of a pregnancy will not be penalized, and as a result the articles 325 and 325 bis of the Penal Code will not be applicable, in the case that the woman voluntarily compiles with the requirements that are established in the following articles, and realizes [the interruption of her pregnancy] before the 12th week” (Second Article)

 

The requirements are that a woman, in the case of an undesired pregnancy, goes to a health center and expresses the factors that lead to her pregnancy and her reasons for wanting to end it. The doctor will refer her to an interdisciplinary team that will meet on the same or the next day.  The team will be made up of a gynecologist, a psychiatrist, and a social health professional.  It will inform the woman about maternity support, adoption possibilities, and the inherent risks involved in the termination of a pregnancy.  Afterwards, the woman will have a required five days to “reflect” about her decision and, if she still wants to abort, the health institution will immediately coordinate the procedure.

The entire procedure, as well as the informed consent of the woman, will be recorded in her clinical history.

In the event in which a pregnancy is the result rape, abortions may be performed up until 14 weeks of pregnancy. If the pregnancy represents a “significant risk” to the women’s health, or if there is a birth defect that is incompatible with life in the fetus, abortions may be preformed without a time restriction.


Conscientious objection

The proposed bill establishes that health professionals who are conscientiously opposed to abortion should advise their primary health institution of their opinions, such that their objection be applicable in all of the health institutions in which they have the privilege to practice.

Institutions whose “ideals” are opposed to abortion – like the Círculo Católico and the Hospital Evangélico – will not be obligated to practice abortions, but they must refer any woman who seeks the procedure to another institution that will perform it.


Types of procedures

Although the bill does not define a specific type of abortion procedure, it specifies that the Ministry of Public Health should keep a registry of all the pharmacological drugs with abortifacient properties that it prescribes.  This leads us to believe that other pregnancy termination methods will not be demanded.  If this is indeed the case, the law would restrict women’s right to choose other existing abortion method possibilities.


Other conditions

Access to abortion would be limited to natural or legal Uruguayan citizens, and foreigners that demonstrate at least a year of residency in the country.  If they do not have the required consent of their legal guardians, minors and women declared mentally unable will go before a judge, who will determine if their decision is voluntary, spontaneous and conscientious, in which case he or she will approve the procedure.

 

—     MYSU – Mujer y Salud en Uruguay
Mauricio de los Santos

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Montevideo – Uruguay

Lilián Abracinskas
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Mujer y Salud en Uruguay
Salto 1267 CP 11200
Montevideo – Uruguay
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labracinskas@mysu.org.uy

Good news to start the new year

Uruguay’s senate passed a bill Tuesday to legalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

December 28, 2011 07:17

Anti-abortion activists protest outside the Uruguayan Congress building in Montevideo on Dec. 27, 2011. (Daniel Caselli/AFP/Getty Images)

Uruguay’s senate has passed a bill to legalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Currently, abortion is legal only in cases of rape or when the woman’s life is at risk, and both women who have an abortion and those who assist them face prison.

Yet on Tuesday senators voted by 17 to 14 in favor of legislation to decriminalize abortion in the first trimester.

According to Reuters, the debate lasted 10 hours and saw heated discussion between supporters and opponents of the bill.

Senator Monica Xavier, a member of the ruling left-wing coalition, told her colleagues, “We’re not moral censors, we’re congressmen:”

“We don’t have the right to pass moral judgment by saying that the woman who continues her pregnancy and has her baby is in the right whereas the one who doesn’t, for whatever reason, is in the wrong.”

Opposition senator Alfredo Solari argued that the bill discriminated against men, by leaving “the decision to end a pregnancy with the woman alone.”

The bill will next go to the lower house. Both houses are controlled by allies of President José Mujica, who according to the BBC has signaled he plans to approve the bill.

His predecessor, Tabaré Vázquez, in 2008 vetoed an attempt to make abortion legal on the grounds that it violated the right to life. However, the latest opinion polls indicate that most Uruguayans support greater access to abortion, the BBC said.

If the bill passes, it will reverse the ban on abortion that has been in place in Uruguay since 1938, and make the country one of the few in Latin America to allow the practice without restriction.