By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

MONTEVIDEO, November 12, 2008 ( – The Uruguayan Senate voted yesterday to legalize abortion, with a majority of the senators who voted ignoring a joint statement by the Uruguayan Episcopal Conference warning that Catholics who cast votes in favor of abortion would be refused Holy Communion.

The legislation, which passed in a narrow vote of 17 to 30 cast, will now pass to President Tabare Vazquez, a medical doctor who has repeatedly promised to veto its pro-abortion provisions.

The announcement by the bishops came in the wake of statements made by Archbishop Nicolas Cotugno of Montevideo, who stated in no uncertain terms that any legislator who voted for abortion would be “ipso facto excommunicated.”  He added that a formal excommunication might also be issued, and that he would support such a measure in union with the Pope and other bishops (see previous LifeSiteNews coverage at

The Uruguayan Episcopal Conference, which includes all of the Catholic bishops of Uruguay, have now added their voice to that of Cotugno, issuing a statement clearly stating that no politician who votes for pro-abortion legislation may receive Holy Communion.

“In relation to Catholic laity who promote and/or vote for a law favoring abortion, we remind them that whoever acts in such a manner breaks the bond that unites them to Christ in the Church.  Until they change their position they are prohibited from receiving Eucharistic Communion (Code of Canon Law, canons 1341 and 1398),” the bishops write.

The bishops also refer to the negative demographic consequences experienced by nations that close themselves to new life: “We Uruguayans need to multiply the signs of support for human life in the midst of emigration and the demographic winter that compromise the future.  The well-being of our people requires sons and daughters that delight the home, fill classrooms and educational or recreational spaces.”

“We are in favor of the integral development of human life, which as Catholic bishops we see through the perspective of Jesus Christ, who came into the world to bring an abundant and dignified life,” write the bishops.

The fertility rate in Uruguay currently stands at 1.94, which is below the replacement rate of 2.1.

Repeating their declaration of one year ago, “Defending Life We All Win,” the bishops also state that “legalizing abortion doesn’t transform evil into good.  Once it is done, things go badly for everyone.  A human life is lost.  The mother has wounds that don’t heal easily.  The doctor goes against the essence of his noble profession.  The society loses a life because it didn’t open its arms.”

Despite the warning, a majority of legislators, primarily from the socialist Broad Front coalition, voted in favor of the law.  However, President Tabare Vazquez, who is also a Broad Front member, is reportedly determined to buck his own party and veto the legislation, which would then require a three-fifths majority to pass – an unlikely scenario.

Although the country has a strong historic link to Catholicism, only 47% of the population still identifies itself as Catholic, while 17% identify as agnostic or atheist, according to the CIA Factbook.

The law, were it to be signed by the President, would eliminate criminal penalties for virtually all abortions carried out during the first three months of gestation.  Currently, abortion is penalized in the nation’s criminal code in all cases, although judges have the discretion of reducing or eliminating penalties under certain circumstances.

Pro-abortion legislation has been under consideration in the Uruguayan Congress since 1984, according to the BBC, but was never passed until yesterday’s vote.

According to reports in late 2007, the legislation also contains an aggressive sexual education program that will be applied in the public schools down to the elementary school level, and which treats sodomy as a “right.”  Vazquez is expected to sign those provisions into law.

Previous coverage:

Uruguayan Legislators Approve Abortion, Despite Veto Promise from President

Archbishop: Excommunication for Uruguayan Legislators who Vote for Abortion

Socialist Legislators Fight over Abortion Legalization Bill in Uruguay

Uruguay Passes Homosexual Civil Union Law

Socialist President of Uruguay Confirms his Intention to Veto Abortion “Rights” Legislation

Uruguayan Senate Approves Bill Legalizing Abortion