Abortion Legalized in Uruguay as Congress Approves Controversial Bill

Uruguay's Congress has approved a bill to decriminalize abortion during the first trimester of a woman's pregnancy. The measure was approved by 50 votes to 49 late Tuesday after 14 hours of intense debate.

The result in fact disappointed both pro-life and pro-abortion groups.

The measure modified a much more liberal version contained in the originally proposed bill, which was approved in December. However, that version was rejected by lawmakers in the lower house.

It must now be approved again by the Senate.

The legislation proposes to legalize abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and also decriminalize later-term abortions when the mother's life is at risk or when the fetus is so deformed that it would not survive after birth.

The bill requires a woman to consult a team of three medical professionals on the potential risks of terminating a pregnancy, as well as to discuss alternative solutions to abortion.

Under Uruguay's current legislation abortion is only allowed in the case of rape or when the life of the woman is in danger. Women who have abortion can face nine months in prison.

The amended bill has received opposition from both pro-abortion and pro-life groups.

Abortion supporters were left disappointed that the bill does not acknowledge that women have the "right" to determine their own reproductive fate.

Where as pro-life activists have also criticized the legislation, saying it will legalize the killing of unborn life.

"I'm against it. I believe life begins at conception," said German Macarena, a student who watched the debate on the bill in Congress, according to AFP.

Uruguay's Catholic University issued a statement saying it makes no sense to punish a woman for killing a fetus that is 12 weeks and 1 day, but at the same time decriminalize abortions before then.

President Jose Mujica has said he would allow the proposals to become law once if it is approved in the Senate.

In Latin America, other countries have legalized abortion under certain conditions. In Cuba abortions are legalized in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. In Argentina and Colombia abortion is allowed only in cases of rape or when the mother's life is endangered.

Colombia also allows abortion when there is proof of fetal malformation. In Mexico City abortions are legalized in the first-trimester, but there are restrictions in most other parts of the country.