Uruguay Congress takes steps to legalize abortion; President likely to veto

The Congress of Uruguay has passed a measure to decriminalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Despite the country’s strong Catholic population, the majority of people in Uruguay believe that abortion restrictions should be eased, and 63 percent believe that the President should not veto this measure.

This is more than a simple political fight. Illegal abortion in Uruguay accounts for 29 percent of all maternal deaths — more than double the world-wide figure. In one public hospital in Montevido, nearly half of all maternal deaths were caused by illegal abortion. And despite its illegality, abortion is a common method of fertility control.

A similar measure failed a while back — and unsurprisingly, U.S. “pro-life” leaders were partially responsible. Despite the fact that women in Uruguay are dying because abortion is illegal, American “pro-lifers” nevertheless took it upon themselves to fax letters to senators in Uruguay asking them to oppose the measure and continue treating women like criminals:

The letter, dated Apr. 30, was ”a non-habitual form of communication between lawmakers from different countries” which, by appearing ”in the midst of the debate on the bill, amounted to a serious case of undue pressure,” socialist Senator Mónica Xavier, one of the sponsors of the ”law for the defence of reproductive health”, told IPS.

”We encourage you in this historic time in your country…to (vote) against this pro-abortion bill and also to refuse to leave it up to a referendum,” says the two-page letter faxed from the office of Representative Christopher Smith.

The letter, to which IPS had access, was signed by Republican Party representatives Smith (New Jersey), Todd Akin (Missouri), Jo Ann Davis (Virginia), Mike Pence (Indiana), Steve King (Iowa) and Joseph Pitts (Pennsylvania).

The bill ”on which the Senate is about to vote would legalise the violent murder of unborn children and the exploitation of women through abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy,” the letter adds.

Apparently it’s not “exploitation of women” to leave them dead or permanently maimed, or to put them in jail for terminating a pregnancy. Unsurprisingly, the Catholic church establishment isn’t any better — although they are more offensive:

”What difference is there between an 18-year-old youngster who flies through the air, shot out of a train in Madrid by a dynamite explosion, and a human being at just two months of gestation that is in the mother’s uterus when they insert forceps and smash its head and then pull it out in pieces and throw it in a garbage can?” asked [Roman Catholic Archbishop of Montevideo Nicolás] Cotugno, alluding to the Mar. 11 terrorist attacks on commuter trains in Spain.

Forty percent of all pregnancies in Uruguay end in abortion. Most of the women procuring those abortions don’t die, but some do; others are maimed; others are jailed; and the rest are forced to undergo a clandestine and often dangerous illegal procedure, putting their lives at risk. That’s the reality of a “pro-life” nation: Abortion doesn’t go away just because you outlaw it. And yet that’s all anti-choice groups can think to do. There’s no aid, no prevention, no education or birth control — just punishment of women.

Next time a “pro-lifer” tells you he care about women and doesn’t want to see them harmed, killed, maimed or jailed, ask him why his most vocal representatives were writing letters to Uruguay, in the name of the “pro-life” movement, in order to uphold that exact reality.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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5 Responses to Uruguay Congress takes steps to legalize abortion; President likely to veto

  1. Rebecca says:

    Funny how all those rightwingers crying that Prop H8 is the will of the people seem to disappear when the will of the people is that women not be treated as baby receptacles.

  2. Chris Smith, Chris Smith… where have I heard that name before?

    Oh, that’s right. He’s my representative. Or at least, he’s the representative of the congressional district in which I reside, no matter how often I vote for anyone running against him.

    So… Rep. Smith is an odd case. On the one hand, this is totally in character for him – on abortion, he’s smack in the middle of wingnutville. If you look at his speeches from a decade ago, he’s right there with the people who’d want to ban or restrict many forms of birth control, if it were politically viable to attempt something like that. Again, going back over a decade you can find him doing things like attaching riders to funding bills that tried to re-establish the Global Gag Rule through Congressional action during the Clinton years. (He’s been in congress since 1981)

    And yet, he was one of the few Republicans who voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, to fix the awful Ledbetter decision. When VAWA came up for reauthorization most recently, he not only voted for it, he was one of the speakers urging its reauthorization. In 2000, he wrote the law that reauthorized VAWA. (As a section of a larger bill he authored, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act)

    I was just cleaning out all the paper recycling for the past month, and ran across various bits of junk mail from before election day. From the “re-elect Chris Smith” material, you’d never even know he was pro-life. In 2000, he was running around talking about how awful it was that women were not being informed about the link between abortion and breast cancer, and was not at all shy about his pro-life creds.

    This time? Not a peep. The only vague hint is how all his mailed campaign materials trumpeted his support of women, both legislatively and through what he’s done under the general heading of “constituent services”. (e.g., when war broke out between Russia and Georgia, he flew to Georgia to negotiate the safe passage of two NJ girls who had been visiting relatives and been trapped by the fighting) These tell me that some campaign advisor told him he needed to focus on getting women to not hate him. (Not that he had anything to worry about – because of district boundaries, he still won with over 70% of the vote)

    Even his official biography on his house.gov site mentions pro-life in only one sentence at the end.

    So what is this? The possible beginning of an honest change of heart, or at least a softening of his former extreme positions? A wingnut trying to go stealth because it isn’t politically a good move anymore?

    I hope it’s the first, because although I plan to keep voting against him I’m also pretty certain this district will keep re-electing him.

  3. Joe says:

    “Forty percent of all pregnancies in Uruguay end in abortion. ”

    That sounds rather high. A “pro-life” sort really should focus on contraceptive use and other things, but straight logic doesn’t often work in this area, does it?

  4. Rebecca_J says:

    I think this hypothetical “pro-lifer” would say that if the ladies were doing their darn job as baby factories none of that would need to happen. In the world of pro-lifers, everything would be fine if not for them murderin’ wimmin. They bring it upon themselves don’t cha know!

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