By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

  MONTEVIDEO, October 17, 2007 ( – An attempt to legalize abortion in Uruguay for practically any reason during the first three months of pregnancy failed today when the vote ended in a 15-15 tie.

  Although the vote was initially expected to pass, two members of the ruling Broad Front coalition, a group of socialist parties, defected to the pro-life position last week. Their position is matched by Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, also of the Broad Front, who is an obstetrician and is firmly opposed to abortion. He has reiterated his promise to veto any legislation legalizing the practice.

  The failed legislation would have allowed abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy for reasons ranging from fetal deformities to a definition of “health” that included social concerns, psychological well being, and even financial difficulties. It also would have imposed a pro-homosexual and pro-abortion “sexual education” curriculum down to the elementary school level. The provisions of the bill provoked a protest march on Monday, which was attended by the Archbishop of Montevideo (see previous coverage at

  The vote, which was expected to take place last night, was delayed until today when the Senate chamber was evacuated in response to a bomb threat. After a search failed to turn up any explosive devices, debate was scheduled to resume the following morning. The motive of the threat is still unknown.

  Disappointed Broad Front members who support the legislation told one reporter that they would follow new strategies to achieve approval for the legislation, including approving the legislation without the abortion provisions, then sending it back to the lower house (the Chamber of Deputies), where the abortion provisions would be re-added. They then hope to ratify the newly-approved legislation in a number of ways, including a General Assembly of the legislature (which requires only a simple majority), or failing that, a national referendum. Passing the bill over the veto of President Vazquez would require a three-fifths majority and is seen as impossible.

  The strong opposition to the legislation in the Uruguayan legislature and executive branches is somewhat surprising in what is probably the most liberal nation in Latin America. Less than 18% of the 66% Catholic population attends mass on Sundays, and 31% of the population professes no religion at all. The country has liberal divorce laws, and a much-touted opinion poll last year claimed to show that a majority of Uruguayans favor the legalization of abortion. 

  However, the moral stigma attached to the practice in Latin culture, even within more liberal countries such as Uruguay, has made passage of pro-abortion legislation all but impossible up to the present date. At least two previous attempts have been made in this decade in Uruguay, in 2002 and 2004, and also failed.

  See Recent Coverage:

  Uruguayans March Against Legalization of Abortion

  Uruguay Will Vote on Legalizing Abortion Tuesday