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Uruguay: Congress Considering a Bill to Decriminalize Abortion

(Oct. 25, 2012) On September 25, 2012, <?Uruguay's Cámara de Diputados (Lower House of Congress) began consideration of a bill that would decriminalize abortion if the procedure is performed within the first 12 weeks after conception, under certain circumstances. The bill became law on October 17, 2012. (Uruguay Despenaliza el Aborto: El Senado Sanciono el Proyecto que el Ejecutivo tiene que Reglamentar, La Red 21 (Oct. 18, 2012.))

According to the bill, in order to have an abortion, a woman would have to be interviewed by a team of at least three professionals who would inform her of the risks of the procedure, alternative options, and social support programs available for maternity or adoption. (Id.) After a waiting period of five days, the woman would be able to confirm her decision to have the abortion and schedule the procedure. (Id.)

As exceptions, an abortion would be allowed up to the fourteenth week of pregnancy in the case of rape, if the pregnancy poses a significant risk to the mother’s health, or if there are malformations of the fetus that threaten its survival. (Id.)

Supporters of the proposed law have expressed their frustration with the bill because it puts a lot of the burden associated with obtaining an abortion on pregnant women but at the same time disallows them full freedom to choose abortion. The proponents believe, however, that if this bill becomes law, it will be a starting point in furtherance of an unrestricted right to an abortion. (Id.)

Pro-life groups, on the other hand, are opposed to the bill because, in their view, it gives women permission to have abortions after fulfilling only minimal requirements. Opponents of the bill see it as making abortion a mere medical decision, without even requiring the opinion of the parents in cases in which minors become pregnant. (Id.)

Previously, abortion bills had been submitted to the legislature in 1979, 1985, 1991, 1993, 1998, 2002, and 2008, but all of them were short of the votes needed for passage.