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Abortion Legalized in Uruguay and Buenos Aires by One-Vote Margins

(Updated) Absent vetos, will join Cuba and Colombia as Latin American nations most open to abortions.

Update (Jan. 24): Reuters reports that about one-third of Uruguay's doctors are refusing to perform abortions in accordance with the new law.


(Editor's note: Time magazine has reported on the regional significance of Uruguay's new law.)


In predominantly Catholic Latin America, laws permitting abortion are gaining ground.

Both Uruguay and Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, recently voted to approve bills legalizing some forms of abortion. The bills passed legislatures by one-vote margins in each country.

In Buenos Aires, legislators narrowly approved (30-29) a law that "allows unrestricted abortions in cases of rape or when the mother's life is in danger." Argentina and Colombia have similar rules allowing abortions only in extreme cases, but this law would loosen the restrictions for Buenos Aires residents.

And just as religious and pro-life leaders are calling for Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri to keep his promise to veto the law, a recent ruling by Argentina's Supreme Court in a rape case has others calling for a federal abortion bill.

In Uruguay, the nation's Chamber of Deputies narrowly approved (50-49) a bill that would legalize abortions up to 12 weeks after conception. President Jose Mujica is expected to allow the bill to become law once the nation's senate approves the language, according to the Associated Press. The news service notes, "The Senate already has approved an even more liberal version of the abortion measure."

Uruguay's final vote is expected today.

But whether or not the bill is approved, women's rights activists say this is not the law they have hoped for. The bill does not de-criminalize self-induced abortions, requires a woman to appear before a panel to request an abortion, and also requires a five-day "waiting period" before any procedure can take place.

Uruguay and Argentina, as well as most of the rest of Latin America, are predominantly Catholic. However, the AP reports that a poll of 802 suggests that more Uruguayans favor abortion rights than oppose them.

Last year, CT noted that Mexico's Supreme Court upheld two state provisions that say life begins at conception, finding them to be constitutional. The provisions in San Luis Potosi and Baja California are 2 of 17 similar state provisions enacted after a 2007 Mexico City law legalized some abortions.

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