By a single vote, Uruguay’s House of Representatives has chosen to legalize abortion in the country.
The vote of 50-49 took place on Tuesday just before midnight in the capital city of Montevideo, and was met with much unrest on both sides.
The bill permits abortions up to 12 weeks after being screened by a medical doctor, mental health professional and social worker. Women must also wait five days to “reflect” before having the procedure. Abortions may be performed up to 14 weeks in instances of rape, and throughout all nine months in situations involving the life of the mother and the unlikelihood of the survival of the baby. Heretofore, Uruguay permitted abortion in instances of rape and the life of the mother.
While similar legislation was approved by Congress in 2008, it was vetoed by President Tabare Vasquez and was thus defeated. However, Uruguay’s current president, Jose Mujica, has vowed to sign the bill if it is indeed approved by both legislative houses. The Senate is expected to pass the measure in the coming weeks as it has already shown support for legalizing abortion in the country.
Similarly, according to national polls taken about the matter, by 52 to 34 percent, the people of Uruguay have stated that they believe women should be able to end the life of their unborn child.
Both pro-life and pro-abortion groups have protested outside of the Congressional offices in an effort to sway lawmakers, including approximately a dozen women from a group called Women’s Health, who stood nude in front of the legislative building — their bodies painted with orange and purple flowers.
Representative Daniel Radio called the bill “a step backwards in terms of civilization.”
“A voluntary interruption of pregnancy is a euphemism for the deliberate cessation of life,” he said.
Uruguay, like most Latin American countries, is heavily Roman Catholic.