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09.28.12 - Uruguay is very close to becoming one of the few countries in Latin America to legalize abortion in the early stages of pregnancy. The country's Chamber of Deputies voted in favor of the law on Tuesday. And according to NPR, the President is likely to allow the legislation to move forward.
Currently, Uruguay outlaws abortion except in cases of rape. The new law would allow abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, 14 weeks in cases of rape, and decriminalize later abortions to protect the life of the mother or carried out when a fetus isn't expected to survive.
There are conditions to the law though that are raising concerns among pro-choice advocates in the country.
Women must justify their decision to a three member panel comprised of a medical doctor, a mental health professional and a social worker. Then they have five days "to reflect" before they can obtain the procedure....
The lawmakers' vote was 50-49. No one is fully happy with the decision. Pro-life advocates are outraged over any change in the strict law, while women's rights advocates are fuming over the restrictions. The Uruguayan newspaper, El Observador, bluntly noted parliamentary arguments for and against abortion "were useless...since no one was willing to listen".
The need for abortion reform in Uruguay is quite clear. Recent statistics in the country reinforce what we already know as human rights advocates—banning abortion does not stop women from having abortions. According the NPR article, in 2006 physicians at the School of Medicine, University of the Republic in Montevideo, reported 29 percent of maternal deaths in Uruguay were due to unsafe abortions. Even more shocking, nearly half of the deaths occurred in a single facility in the capital: Pereira Rossell Hospital. Essentially, where access to safe and legal abortion is limited, women resort to unsafe abortion, with devastating consequences for their health, lives, and families.