While it’s far from the complete reproductive freedoms women should have access to, Uruguay took a not-insignificant step yesterday as the Senate passed a bill allowing abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, following the Chamber of Deputies’ approval of the bill last month. Certainly, the bill has many problems still – as critics point out, it is limited to the first trimester, and women first have to defend their decision to a doctor based on the “economic, social, family, or age difficulties,” talk to a panel of “at least three professionals,” and then wait five days before getting the procedure. Obviously, given the first-trimester limit (and the fact that many women don’t know they are pregnant until after more than a few weeks further limits the time in which women could act). By any general measure of reproductive freedoms, this is significantly limited law. Nonetheless, it is an important step for a region where many countries at best limit abortion only to victims of rape or incest or in cases where the life of the mother is threatened. For any number of cultural, social, and political reasons, it’s probably unrealistic to see a sudden shift from virtually no reproductive freedom to total freedom, so though the Uruguayan bill is still highly problematic, it’s also hopefully the first of what will be many steps towards women’s rights in Latin America. Time will tell.
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