Uruguay's Bill To Legalize Abortion Fails

by VR Sreeraman on Nov 21 2008 12:03 PM

Lawmakers failed Thursday to muster enough votes for a measure that would have ended Uruguay's 70-year-old ban on abortion, meaning the procedure will remain a crime in this socially conservative country.

After a heated debate, legislators here failed to overturn a presidential veto of a bill passed in Congress earlier this month decriminalizing abortion.

Lawmakers said they were unable to reach the three-fifths quotient required in each chamber to override the veto, legislator Jaime Trobo said.

The bill legalizing abortion, passed by Congress earlier this month and hailed as a milestone, would have allowed a woman to end a pregnancy within the first 12 weeks of gestation because of economic, family or age reasons.

Abortion also would have been allowed for health, deformation or risk to the mother's life.

But last week the bill was vetoed by President Tabare Vazquez, after the Roman Catholic church expressed "deep discomfort" about the bill.

Vazquez, also a doctor by profession, had announced that he would veto the Law of Sexual and Reproductive Health because it included elements "with which I disagree, philosophically and biologically."

Some ruling party lawmakers tried, but failed, to win Vazquez's support for the bill. They also failed to get his support in allowing Uruguayans to hold a referendum on the measure.

A recent poll showed 57 percent of Uruguayans support access to abortion while 42 percent oppose it.