Last night, Uruguay’s Chamber of Deputies voted 50-49 to legalize abortion, meaning the bill proceeds now to the Senate. Uruguay’s president, José Mujica, has already he said he would sign such a bill if the Senate approves it. And while opponents to the bill say that, if it passes, they will call for a national referendum to overturn legalization, polls suggest a greater majority of Uruguayans support legalization, with 52% saying they would vote in favor of it and only 34% saying they would vote against it. Thus, even though the bill passed by the slimmest of margins in the Chamber of Deputies, it appears Uruguay’s population has fewer reservations over opening reproductive freedom for women than their politicians do.
The bill does not allow women to have total control over their reproductive rights, however. Abortions would be limited only to the first 12 weeks (14 weeks in case of rape), and women would be forced to ” justify their request before a panel of at least three professionals — a gynecologist, psychologist and social worker — and listen to advice about alternatives including adoption and support services if she should decide to keep the baby,” and even after all that, she still has to go through a five day period of “reflection” before getting the abortion. With abortion being legal only in the first trimester, this drawn-out process reduces women’s options and could delay things enough to force some to seek illegal and life-threatening options. At the same time, the bill does get rid of some ridiculous provisions that reinforced the worst types of patriarchy (the three-member review panel only has to get the father’s opinion if the woman agrees, rather than mandating paternal input like some advocated). It’s not the best option for women’s reproductive freedoms, but in a country and a region that too often restricts women’s choices, it is an important step in the right direction; now it’s just up to the Uruguayan Senate.