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Uruguay senate approves bill decriminalizing first-trimester abortions

Uruguay's Senate [official website, in Spanish] passed a bill [text, PDF, in Spanish] on Wednesday by a vote of 17-14 that legalizes abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Although the bill declares [El Observador backgrounder, in Spanish] that the public health care system must allow any woman to decide whether or not to have an abortion, senators removed language from the bill that proclaimed, "every adult woman has the right to decide whether to end her pregnancy during the first 12 weeks of gestation." Senator Luis Gallo, who voted for the bill, said that while the bill is far from perfect, it is a step in the right direction. Last month Uruguay's lower house, the Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Spanish], approved the bill [JURIST report] by a narrow 50-49 margin. The bill will now go to President Jose Mujica [official profile, in Spanish], who is expected to sign it into law.

Abortion continues to be debated internationally. Two weeks ago a court in Alaska upheld a state law [JURIST report] requiring women under the age of 18 to notify their parents if they intend to get an abortion. Earlier that week a federal court in Arizona heard arguments [JURIST report] on the constitutionality of a state law that prohibits government funding to facilities that perform abortions. Earlier in October the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] upheld an Ohio law [JURIST report] limiting the use of RU-486, better known as the "abortion pill." In August South Korea's constitutional court upheld [JURIST report] its abortion ban. Last year voters in Liechtenstein rejected a proposal [JURIST report] to legalize abortion in the country after the acting Head of State expressed displeasure with the law and threatened to veto the proposed change. In 2010 the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] criticized [JURIST report] the restrictive abortion laws of the Philippines as a "human rights crisis," resulting in the death of thousands of women annually.

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