Uruguay senate passes bill to legalize abortion


Anti-abortion activists protest outside the Uruguayan Congress building in Montevideo on Dec. 27, 2011.


Daniel Caselli

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.

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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.

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