Monday, May 5, 2014

Uruguay: 5400 Legal Abortions in the Past Year Says Catholic Church

An estimated 5400 legal abortions have taken place in Uruguay over the past year according to information from the local Catholic Church.

As mentioned in the Uruguayan press, the data was based on pamphlets that were distributed in churches nationwide over the weekend.  The statistics were reportedly based on a study that analyzed the number of abortions done since first trimester abortions were legalized in 2012.

The pamphlets allegedly mentioned that parishioners should use the information to “reflect” on the issue of abortion.  In addition, the text in the booklets also advised readers to keep them until October’s presidential election.

The information in the pamphlets contradicts Uruguayan officials that mentioned last February that 6676 abortions took place between December 2012 and November 2013.

The issue of abortion has become an important topic ahead of the presidential election in approximately five months time.  Adding fuel to the fire was the decision by doctors in the city of Salto who refused to oversee the abortion requested in the name of mentally disabled woman who became pregnant when she was raped.  (Uruguayan law permits abortions in the first fourteen weeks when the mother's health is at risk, a fetus has malformations or the pregnancy was due to rape).  As a result, the woman was taken to a hospital in the capital city of Montevideo though it hasn’t been mentioned in the press if she underwent an abortion or not.

Uruguay’s abortion law has received criticism from groups for and against the procedure.  Anti-abortion groups failed last year to receive enough signatures on a petition aimed at creating a nationwide referendum.  Some women’s rights organizations, meanwhile, have reportedly considered filing a civil lawsuit based on the Salto case.

“The law exposes women (considering an abortion) to provide explanations and is dependent on the doctors they are visiting,” said Lilian Celiberti of Uruguay’s Everyday Woman organization.  As a result “there have en cases where medical professionals have tried to convince patients” to skip going though abortions, according to Celiberti.

In recent years, several Latin American areas have partially legalized bans on abortion though there have been some areas of resistance.  In one of the most recent cases, doctors of a Buenos Aires, Argentina hospital rejected performing an abortion on a thirteen-year-old-girl who was raped by her stepfather.  (She underwent the procedure in a private clinic last week).

According to one analyst, the push against abortion in Latin America has led to a high number of unsafe abortions throughout the region:
Among the regions with the most restrictive abortion laws and the highest number of unsafe abortions is Latin America, which has 4.2 million abortions a year, most of them unsafe, according to Carmen Barroso, Western hemisphere regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

Although Colombia, Uruguay and Mexico City decriminalized some aspects of abortion in recent years, setbacks occurred in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and some Mexican states, she said.

Most people think abortion should be legal, but they tend to agree to curb it under the influence of strong religious opposition to the procedure, she said.  She thinks this is because “For many people, that’s the only source that they have to consider themselves ethical and honorable.”
This position could easily change, she said, pointing out that only a few decades ago divorce was banned throughout Latin America, yet today few people question it.
Video Source – AFP via YouTube (In October 2012, Uruguay became only the second country in South America to legalize abortion.)

Online Sources – Thomson Reuters Foundation; Diario La Republica; Diario Los Andes; AsiaOne; teleSUR; El Espectador;; El Observador; BBC News

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