Uruguay votes to legalize abortion

The lower house of Uruguay's Congress has voted to legalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill passed with 50 votes to 49, after a 14-hour debate, according to BBC News. President Jose Mujica said he will approve the law if the Senate approves the changes, as it had already voted for an earlier, more liberal version of the bill last December.

Several of the Congress lawmakers on both sides of the debate said they weren't able to go along with their parties' lines, and allowed substitutes to vote on their behalf, reported the Associated Press.

The AP also noted that Latin America has a population that is majority Catholic, and no country except Cuba has made abortion accessible to women in their first trimester of pregnancy.

Most countries in the region allow abortion only in cases of rape, when the woman's life is in danger or the fetus is severely deformed, the BBC reported. Under Uruguay's current legislation, women who have an abortion and the people who assist them face jail time, as abortion is only allowed in the case of rape or if the woman's life in in danger in the South American country.

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According to the AP, Congress's new law would give women the legal right to abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and decriminalize later-term abortions if the mother's life is at risk or the fetus wouldn't survive after birth. Abortions would be legal during the first 14 weeks in cases of rape.

Women would have to speak to a panel consisting of a doctor, a psychologist and a social worker who would inform her of any risks and alternatives, such as adoption, before having an abortion, said BBC. They would then have to wait five days before having the procedure.