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URUGUAY
Lawmakers debate abortion
Latinamerica Press
11/7/2008
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Senate to decide on bill to decriminalize pregnancy termination.

The lower chamber of Congress narrowly approved a bill on Nov. 5 to decriminalize abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy for cases of extreme poverty, incest, age, as well as for health reasons such as fetal malformation, or the endangerment of the mother´s life.

But the bill, approved with 49 votes in favor and 48 against, faces more debate in the Senate since one of its articles was rejected , which read: “sexual and reproductive rights are universal human rights, non-transferable and inalienable,” considering it an imposition.

The Senate had already approved the bill last November, but now it must decide whether to accept the law with this article omitted. If approved, President Tabaré Vázquez, a medical doctor, has said he will veto the law.

Abortion has been a crime in Uruguay since a 1938 law. The sentences could be lessened by a judge in cases of economic restraints, health risks to the mother´s life or rape. The Women and Health in Uruguay organization says that the last 70 years have shown “the law´s inefficiency since it was never implemented in conditions to ease access to abortion services for the established conditions.”

“The only thing this punitive law does is generate and promote clandestine practices, in high-risk conditions, which impacts women´s health and lives,” the organization said.

The organization which defends the new bill says that a clandestine abortion in Uruguay takes place every 20 minutes and that 40 percent of Uruguayan women have had an abortion at least once in their lives.

Catholic bishop Nicolás Cotugno threatened to excommunicate the lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill. But Methodist Church issued a statement that said that even though it does not approve of abortion, it respects a woman´s right to decide. “Our church does not try to judge a humanly difficult decision, but instead accompany the mother in the middle of her decision.”

The Methodist Church’s statement said that the most important issue was allowing women and couples to have access to the necessary instruments for responsible parenting and to avoid unwanted pregnancies. It also said that education must play a fundamental role in this. —Latinamerica Press.


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