Abortion in Uruguay is legal on request before twelve weeks of gestation, after a five-day reflection period.[1] Abortion has been legalized in Uruguay since 2012. Uruguay is one of only four countries in South America where abortion is legal on request; the other three are Argentina, Guyana and Colombia.


Prior to legalization, the punishment for having an abortion was 3 to 12 months in prison, while performing an abortion was punishable by 6 to 24 months in prison.[2] A judge could mitigate the pregnant woman's sentence in certain circumstances. These included economic hardship, risk for the woman's life, rape, or family honor.[3]

On November 11, 2008, the Senate voted 17 to 13 to support a bill which decriminalized abortion.[4] This bill was vetoed by President Tabaré Vázquez on November 14 of the same year.[5]

In December 2011, the Senate voted 17 to 14 to support a bill which would decriminalize abortion in their country. The bill would allow abortion after 12 weeks (fetal age 10 weeks) in cases of rape or incest.[6] President Jose Mujica has said he would sign the bill if it passed the Chamber of Deputies.[7] The Chamber of Deputies later passed the bill.

Abortion methods and results

Before abortion was legalized, Uruguay's women suffered 20,000 hospitalizations because of unsafe abortion every year, until a harm reduction strategy was adopted to enable women to initiate medical abortion at home[citation needed]. Medical abortion is non-surgical, so it does not introduce instruments into the womb; danger of infection from septic abortion is therefore much lower.[8]


Abortion was made illegal in Uruguay in 1938. Many women and girls died every year from complications of unsafe abortions. In 2004, a team of professionals including gynecologists, midwives, psychologists, nurses and social workers founded a group called Iniciativas Sanitarias ("Health Initiatives"). As part of a larger goal to promote sexual rights and abortion as a "human right", they focused on unintended or "unwanted" pregnancies and their consequences.[9] They say that women should not have to pay for abortion of the unborn child's life with their own lives, and that pregnant women have a right to health information and emotional support, as well as post-abortion medical care. Their group aims to provide both respect and confidentiality.[8]

In 2012, Uruguay decriminalized abortion. While a number of politicians and advocacy groups protested its legalization, in 2013, they failed to muster the required support for a national referendum to settle the matter,[10] and the political positions are varied, with leaders from all the parties that think differently.[11]

See also


  1. ^ "La ley y su implementación".
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-27. Retrieved 2008-12-27.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-01-02. Retrieved 2008-12-27.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Breaking News, World News and Video from al Jazeera".
  5. ^ "Uruguay head vetoes abortion bill". 2008-11-14. Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  6. ^ http://www.tt.com/csp/cms/sites/tt/Nachrichten/4055631-2/uruguays-senat-billigte-abtreibung-in-ersten-zw%C3%B6lf-wochen.csp[dead link]
  7. ^ "Uruguay Senate votes to decriminalise abortion". BBC News. 2011-12-28. Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  8. ^ a b "Eliminating Maternal Deaths from Unsafe Abortion in Uruguay: The experience of Iniciativas Sanitarias". United Nations Population Fund. 2011-08-18. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
  9. ^ "Eliminating Maternal Deaths from Unsafe Abortion in Uruguay". www.unfpa.org. Retrieved 2021-12-11.
  10. ^ "Reserved diagnosis". Brecha. 8 March 2013.
  11. ^ "Like giving birth". Brecha. 5 April 2013.