Uruguay's congress appeared ready yesterday to legalise abortion, a ground-breaking move in Latin America, where no country save Cuba has made abortions accessible to all women during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Compromises made to secure votes disappointed both sides of the abortion divide, which gathered in protest. Once it gets through Uruguay's lower house, the measure would go back to the Senate for approval of changes, but President Jose Mujica has said he will allow it to become law.
The measure would give women the right to a legal abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and decriminalise later-term abortions when the mother's life is at risk or when the fetus is so deformed that it wouldn't survive after birth. In cases of rape, abortions would be legal during the first 14 weeks.
The goal is to reduce the number of illegal abortions in Uruguay, Congressman Ivan Posada of the centre-left Independent Party told his fellow lawmakers yesterday. Posada wrote the measure and is expected to provide a key 50th vote against the opposition of 49 other lawmakers.
"They talk of 30,000 a year, a hypothetical number, but whatever the number is, it's quite dramatic for a country where 47,000 children are born each year," Posada explained earlier in an Associated Press interview.
A poll this month showed 52 percent of Uruguayans would vote to legalise abortion if the question were put to the people, while 34 per cent would vote against it. The survey of 802 people nationwide by the CIFRA consulting firm had a 3.4 percentage point margin of error.
Full Caption: People demonstrate against abortion legalisation in downtown Montevideo, Uruguay, Monday, September 24. People protested the day before a congressional bill legalising abortion is voted on. The banner reads in Spanish "No to the abortion law."