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Guilherme Ferreira Araújo and Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

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‘Historic’ Uruguayan ruling allows gynecologists to opt out of abortions

Guilherme Ferreira Araújo and Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

August 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A Uruguayan court decision has allowed gynecologists to exercise conscientious objection for personal or philosophical reasons if they choose not to commit abortions.

A group of 20 gynecologists filed the appeal to the Administrative Court arguing that the current law “imposes a general obligation in the participation of abortions that may be qualified as an attack on the meaning of their profession and even their personal dignity,” adding that because of their “particular vocation, they are committed humanly and professionally to the protection of human life.”

Abortion was made legal in Uruguay in 2012. The law permits abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy following a review by a board of experts and a five-day waiting period. The first trimester limit is dropped in cases of rape, or if the child is handicapped, in which case he may be killed up to the moment of birth.

According to the Uruguayan newspaper El Observador, in the original decree, the doctors could only use conscientious objection when they were coordinating the procedure, that is, right before doing the uterine curettage or prescribing an abortive pill. They were obliged to participate in the first appointment with the woman who intended to abort and sign the authorization form of the procedure.

Now the doctors who do not want to perform abortions can exempt themselves from the whole process, not only from the actual procedure.

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A study performed by the National Observatory on Gender and Sexual and Reproductive Health, showed that in the regions of Young and Mercedes, 100 percent of doctors refused to perform abortions, which made it impossible to implement the country’s law.

Other regions also showed high levels of doctors refusing to abort babies: 92 percent in Salto, 87 percent in Paysandu, 82 percent in Soriano and 43 percent in Rio Negro.

Lilian Abracisnkas, head of Woman and Health Uruguay (MYSU), said the recent ruling was “cruel, as it places medical professionals above women’s rights and harms those more vulnerable,” in an interview with local newspaper El Observador.

According to a MYSU press release, the recent decision “deepens the barriers to access voluntary interruption of pregnancy services,” as it “favor[s] those professionals that turn their back to the needs and rights of those who live through an unwanted pregnancy.”

Carlos Polo, head of the Population Research Institute for Latin America, noted the importance of the ruling, as “the spirit of combat that gynecologists have showed to avoid this odious imposition,” was the main motivation, reported El Once Internacional.

“In the end, it is not the politicians who have to chop a healthy child in pieces,” he continued. “Legal abortion forces a doctor who felt a vocation to save lives, to kill a child.”

The lawyer Gianni Gutierrez said the decision is “historic.” According to him, “It was a unanimous verdict that understands it’s so grave to interfere in the conscientious objection, that it’s necessary to halt this harm even before the definitive pronouncement. … Freedom of conscience is the cornerstone of the constitutional state and of the free practice of medicine. One can’t force other people to do activities that violate their conscience."

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