Uruguay has voted by a razor-thin margin to legalise abortion, becoming only the second country in Latin America to make abortions accessible to all women during the first trimester of pregnancy.
The vote in Uruguay’s chamber of deputies was 50-49 after several MPs on each side of the debate said they could not in good conscience go along with their parties, and allowed substitutes to vote in their stead.
President Jose Mujica has said he will allow the legislation to become law, if the senate approves the changes. The senate has approved an even more liberal version of the abortion measure.
The chamber of deputies’ legislation would give women the right to a legal abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and decriminalise later-term abortions when the mother’s life is at risk or when the foetus is so deformed that it would not survive after birth. In cases of rape, abortions would be legal during the first 14 weeks.
Deputy Pablo Abdala, of the opposition National Party vowed yesterday to promote a popular referendum to overturn the law, if Mr Mujica does not veto it, calling the measure a violation of human rights.
However, polls suggest many more Uruguayans favour abortion rights than oppose them.
A survey this month showed 52 per cent of Uruguayans would vote to legalise abortion if the question were put to the people, while 34 per cent would vote against it.
Cuba, which decriminalises abortions in the first ten weeks of pregnancy, is the only country in Latin America where legal abortion is common.
Argentina and Colombia allow it only in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is endangered. Colombia also allows it when there is proof of foetal malformation.