Uruguayan pro-lifers force popular vote on abortion law following petition drive
March 22, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Uruguayan pro-life activists have gathered more than 68,000 signatures requesting a referendum over recent legislation legalizing the killing of the unborn, forcing a national vote on the issue, according to local media sources.
As a result of the petition, a non-obligatory vote must be held within 90 days to determine if a binding referendum will be held on the issue. If at least 25 percent of the nation's voters approve a referendum, it will be held during the country's next election cycle.
Petitioners gathered well in excess of the 52,000 signatures, or two percent of the nation's population, needed to force the vote. The move takes the country one step closer to nullifying the new law.
The controversial law, passed in late 2012, 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.
The law was passed by a single-vote majority in the country's Chamber of Deputies following a process that some pro-lifers allege was marred by irregularities.
Large numbers of Uruguayan doctors have registered as conscientious objectors to the law. In some areas the objection rate reaches 100 percent, making it impossible to implement.
Although the upcoming vote represents an opportunity to move the country towards revocation of the law, a large number of pro-lifers have stated their opposition to a referendum.
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According to the Pro-life of Uruguay coalition, the odds are stacked against pro-lifers in such a vote, which will be influenced by the nation's pro-abortion politicians, media, and other institutional figures. That could lead to disastrous results for the pro-life cause.
They are also concerned that a referendum could imply that the right to life is subject to a vote.
"It is logical... that the supporters of abortion (present in all parties) want to give a more solid basis to their law, through some sort of appeal to the popular will, which on the other hand relieves them of the responsibility for this atrocious attack and leaves their hands free for the next campaign election," stated the groups in a declaration issued late last year.
Although polls have historically indicated that a broad majority of Uruguayans favor the legalization of abortion, at least one poll conducted last year found that most Uruguayans favor a referendum, and that the vote would be close.
The poll, conducted by a Cifra, found that 66 percent of Uruguayans favor a referendum. Polls found they would favor a pro-abortion law by a margin of only three percent, with 45 percent saying they would vote for it, and 42 percent against.
Uruguay is one of the most liberal and irreligious countries in Latin America. In addition to depenalizing the killing of unborn children, has homosexual civil unions and allows homosexuals to openly serve in the armed forces.
The nation's Senate is scheduled to vote on the creation of homosexual "marriage" in April.