November 2, 2012, ( – Uruguay’s socialist President Jose Mujica has surprised his own party by supporting a voter referendum over legislation he recently signed that would remove the penalty for performing abortion in cases of rape.

“It’s an issue that a vote by the people would have to resolve. It’s an issue of conscience, something each one must resolve in his heart of hearts,” Mujica told the Uruguayan press on Tuesday.

The legislation passed the country’s Chamber of Deputies in late September by a single vote, and was then passed by the Senate, which is controlled by Mujica’s Broad Front party, and signed and promulgated by Mujica on October 23.

A referendum may not go well for pro-abortion forces in Uruguay. Although some polls have indicated that Uruguayans favor depenalization for the killing of the unborn, a recent poll conducted by the National Association of Life and Family (ANFAVI) and the Educating Uruguay Association (AEDU) yielded a result of 56.1 percent in favor of the right to life from conception, according to ACI Prensa.

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Pro-life groups initially attempted to convince Mujica to veto the bill, in an open letter submitted by a coalition of such groups.  Following passage, pro-life organizations have announced plans to file a complaint with the Organization of American States, and the opposition National Party has begun collecting signatures for a referendum.

Although the bill originally would have legalized abortion on demand, the bill ran into opposition in the Chamber of Deputies, and passed by one vote only after it was altered to make non-penalized abortions more difficult.

Under the terms of the new law, applicants for a non-penalized abortions will have to receive approval from a committee of experts and will have to wait five days before the deadly procedure is finally carried out. However, minors will not have to receive permission from their parents, according to pro-life critics.