Uruguayan woman faces jail for abortion

Activists launch petition drive to lift the country's ban.

By Lynn Harris

Published June 13, 2007 4:40PM (EDT)

Last month, a 20-year-old woman in Uruguay went to a public hospital after suffering complications from an illegal abortion. Under Uruguay's strict 1938 law against abortion, she left facing up to nine months (!) in prison. Three women involved in performing the procedure are in jail awaiting trial.

While illegal abortion is presumed to be common in Uruguay, Reuters reports that this particular case has galvanized an Internet campaign to legalize abortion in the country. Over 4,000 people -- including writers, musicians and two female government ministers -- have signed the petition at www.despenalizar.blogspot.com, which reads: "Those of us signing this have violated the law ... either by having an abortion or financing one, by accompanying a woman to have one, (or) knowing the identity of many women who have had one and keeping quiet. Either we are all criminals or the law is unjust."

It's unclear what effect the petition itself has had or will have. But it appears to be part of a slowly growing call in Latin America -- where illegal abortion is said to kill thousands of women every year -- for easing some of the restrictions on the procedure. According to a New York Times/International Herald Tribune editorial, "Latin Americans are beginning to look at abortion as an issue of maternal mortality, not just maternal morality."

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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