Uruguay gets closer to lifting ban on Abortion


Women stood naked with their bodies painted to reflect their support for what they called their right to choose.

Uruguay is now on the verge of decriminalizing abortion after its House of Representatives approved a motion to do just that with a minimum majority of 50 to 49. Although the bill still needs to be ratified in the Senate, it is expected to pass, because it seems to have enough support there too.

The motion to decriminalize abortion was approved after a lengthy discussion of nearly fourteen hours which had moments filled with emotion from those pro lifting the ban and others who sought keep abortion illegal.  The feelings of concern and excitement among representatives was evident as arguments marked clear lines of separation within all Uruguayan political parties.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it will voted on in December to become law. After that, President José Mujica will have to sign it in order to ratify the law and make it official.

According to the text adopted, the motion decriminalizes abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy, with no limit in case of danger to the health of the mother, and provided that the procedure is carried out in health centers under the supervision of the authorities. Any Uruguayan woman who wants an abortion under this law only has to go to a doctor and express her desire to do so.

The physician will then send the woman to a committee of gynecologists, psychologists and social workers to inform the woman about all the possibilities she has available. If the woman still manifests her intention to have the abortion, the procedure will take place immediately without further proceedings.

This project is a substantial modification of the bill voted on by the Senate because the ruling Frente Amplio (FA), which promised to pass the motion, did not have the votes previous to the debate. The party was forced to agree on a new project with Independent Party lawmaker Ivan Posada, whose vote was crucial for approval.

In the end, the final tally of 49 votes from the Frente Amplio plus one from Posada helped approve the motion, even though representative  Andrés Lima voted against on grounds of conscience. Two other representatives argued against the project, but left the room and their seats to their alternates so the project could be approved.

Among them was Dario Perez, who tearfully told colleagues he could not accompany the vote because he still remembered the pain that resulted in the loss of a child when his wife spontaneously aborted while during her fourth month of pregnancy. On the opposing side, the Colorado Party deputy Fernando Amado, a supporter of the decriminalization of abortion, argued in favor of the measure and left the room to not vote against it as a mandate required him to do due to a mandate from his party.

Anibal Gloodtdofsky, also was in favor of decriminalization but said he would vote against to respect party lines. In his speech to the House, Rep. Posada defended the project saying it was “appropriate to reduce the number of abortions performed in the country. This project chooses the middle path, the path of lesser evil,” he said to the other members.

By contrast, Rep. Fitzgerald argued against by saying that “with this project the mother can do what she wants with the pregnancy.” Despite being punishable by law in Uruguay, records show that at least 30,000 abortions are performed each year, although the reality could double that number, say NGOs. In 2008, a similar bill was approved, but it did not become law due to the veto imposed by the previous administration.

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