by Steven Ertelt
November 6, 2007
Montevideo, Uruguay (LifeNews.com) — The Senate in the South American nation of Uruguay is slated to vote a second time on a bill that would legalize all abortions up to 12 weeks into pregnancy. The legislative chamber tied 15-15 on its last vote, but two lawmakers not present at the time have said they plan to support the bill.
Abortion advocates have worked overtime to try to get several Latin American nations to legalize abortion and they have been successful so far only in Mexico City.
The Senate ultimately decided to postpone the vote after a bomb threat late last month. But, at the time the vote was halted, a 15-15 tie emerged and one lawmaker abstained from voting.
Had the Senate approved the bill, Uruguayan president Tabare Vasquez promised to veto it — and that could be the remaining hope for pro-life advocates there.
A new vote could take place as early as this week and Archbishop Nicolas Cotugno of Montevideo said he is saddened to see pro-abortion groups continuing their efforts.
Speaking on the Telenoche 4 TV network, Archbishop Cotugno said he felt “very sad that an issue of such importance depends on the decision of a few legislators.”
He said he was “perplexed” that lawmakers would be allowed to introduce another version of the “Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Health Act,” despite its defeat on the tie vote last month.
Local pro-life advocates in Uruguay said pro-abortion lawmakers introduced the bill right before a three-day weekend in order to avoid media scrutiny.
The bill was similar to a previous measure introduced in May 2004 that lawmakers ultimately defeated 17 to 13.
The new bill would legalize virtually all abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy by allowing them to preserve the life or health of the mother.
Health is defined in the bill as “the general state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not only the absence of illness or ailments" — a definition similar to one in the United States that allows abortion on demand.
The proposed measure also would have allowed abortions to be done on minor teenagers without the involvement of their parents.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Monica Xavier of the Socialist Party, said the measure links abortion to “aspects related to sexuality and reproduction,” bypassing a “black and white debate."
Like most counties in the region that are strongly Hispanic and Catholic, Uruguay prohibits abortions in virtually all cases exception when a woman’s life is in danger or she is a victim of rape.
Abortion advocates launched their latest campaign after news surfaced that a 20 year-old woman was criminally charged for having an illegal abortion.
In June, Rafael Sanseviero, a former Communist Party legislator, and a leader of the pro-abortion campaign told Reuters he and his associates have started a new web site to advocate their cause.
"We felt that people needed a place to express their indignation over the injustice done to this young woman," he said of the woman in the illegal abortion case.
He said about 3,500 people have signed a petition to legalize abortion including writer Eduardo Galeano and singer Jaime Roos
Although the contemporary pro-life community opposes attempts to jail women, instead focusing on the abortion practitioner, the 1983 Uruguay abortion law puts women who have illegal abortions in prison for up to nine months. Anyone who does an abortion faces up to two years in jail or as much as six years if the abortion kills the woman.
Abortion advocates claim that the illegal state of abortion leads to tens of thousands of such abortions in the country each year, and that women often die as a result.
But pro-life groups point to the women who have died from legal abortions and they say abortion is dangerous whether legalized or not.
During the 2004 battle, local pro-abortion groups received the support of Catholics for a Free Choice, a U.S.-based organization that claims to represent thousands of Catholics who back abortion. Former CFFC president, Frances Kissling, traveled to Uruguay and spoke before the Senate vote.
"Most Spanish speaking countries have strong Judeo-Christian values and protect unborn life," Magaly Llaguno, the director of Vida Humana Internacional, said.
Llaguno fears that if Uruguay approved abortion, other Latin American countries would follow, Observers from several nations were on hand for the vote.
The only Latin American nations where abortion is legal are Cuba and Guyana and legislators in Mexico City recently voted to legalize abortion there.