Battle to Keep Abortion Illegal in Uruguay Moves to Congress

International   |   Timothy Herrmann   |   Jan 26, 2012   |   6:22PM   |   Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo, Uruguay — (CFAM/LifeNews) A left leaning coalition within the Uruguayan Senate recently approved a bill that would legalize abortion within the first trimester of pregnancy.  The bill narrowly passed by three votes, with seventeen senators in favor of the legislation and fourteen against. Last November, a similar bill was defeated by a coalition of conservatives using the San José Articles to defend the right to life and to refute claims that there exists an international right to abortion.

During the debate, Senator Carlos Moreira expressed that the “right to life begins at conception as affirmed by the San José Articles” and said that if the bill were made into law, it would be violating treaties guaranteeing the right to life internationally. The San Jose Articles is a document drafted by leading scholars that makes clear there is no international right to abortion and that governments should use existing international treaties to guarantee protection for unborn life.

In an exclusive interview, Senator Moreira told the Friday Fax that as a coalition they “wanted to highlight Uruguay’s international obligations, especially as a country. Life is protected from conception, and this is the most fundamental right that exists. There are obligations that Uruguay must respect internationally and this law is in direct contradiction with this principal.”

Senator Moreira also expressed concern that “the law will require all health institutions, public and private, to provide abortion on demand, and that though physicians will be able to refuse to provide abortions, the institution, even if private, will not.” All abortions, whether carried out in a public or private institution, will be paid for by the state, and thus funded by the taxes of all Uruguayan citizens.

Many who voted in favor for the bill, like Senator Luis Gallo, continue to publicly deny that “those who voted for the bill are in favor of abortion.” Instead their position is that by supporting the bill they are supporting maternal health through preventing unsafe abortions. According to Moreira, this perspective is “inconsistent with the truth”. Instead, their support for the bill “ignores the life of the child” and does not address the root causes associated with clandestine abortions in Uruguay.

All of this comes at time when international organizations are placing increasing pressure on countries to change their abortion laws. Just last November a top level commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights submitted two special reports attacking both the right of conscientious objection of health care providers and encouraging local litigation to decriminalize abortion at the national level.

A similar report was brought before the United Nations in October of last year, speciously arguing that abortion fell under an international right to health and labeling conscientious objection as a barrier to health services. Even the UN’s newest agency, UN Women, published its first report highlighting as its main priority the need for local NGOs and lawyers to use international law to overturn abortion laws at home.

The fight to defeat the proposed bill now moves to the Uruguayan congress. All press sources in Uruguay covering the process affirm that President José Mujica is not expected to veto the bill. Note: Timothy Herrmann writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Turtle Bay and Beyond blog and is used with permission.