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Uruguay's Congress Approves Bill To Legalize Abortion During First Trimester

“Uruguay’s Congress voted narrowly on Wednesday to legalize abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, a rare move in largely Catholic Latin America that underscores the country’s liberal leanings,” Reuters reports. “President Jose Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla fighter, has said he would sign the bill into law,” the news service notes (Castaldi, 10/17). “[T]he bill approved by Uruguay’s Senate came after a pointed debate among legislators, producing a compromise that disappointed both abortion-rights groups and opponents, who have vowed to carry out a referendum to overturn the legislation,” the New York Times writes, adding, “Legislators carefully worded the bill, describing it not as legalization of abortion but as a decriminalization measure.” The newspaper writes, “The bill effectively legalizes abortion in the first trimester, permits abortion through 14 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape and allows later-term abortions when a woman’s health is at risk” (Romero et al., 10/17).

Inter Press Service notes that under the bill, abortion “will only be permitted in cases in which the pregnant woman complies with certain requisites.” A woman seeking an abortion must explain her case to a physician, then to a three-person panel, and finally must undergo a five-day waiting period, the news service notes (Pierri, 10/18). Cuba is the only other country in Latin America where abortion is legal, and Mexico City and many Mexican states allow abortion in the first trimester, BBC News notes. “In other Latin American countries, it is only allowed in cases of rape or health risk for the woman,” the news service writes (10/17). “The measure in Uruguay is already emerging as reference point in parts of Latin America, where debates are intensifying over abortion,” the New York Times reports and provides examples of Brazil and Argentina (10/17).