July 3, 2013 ( – Uruguay’s voters have failed in their attempt to repeal the country’s abortion law, one of the most liberal abortion laws in South America, despite the support of ex-president Tabaré Vázquez and a famous TV celebrity, who called on them to vote.

Pro-life organizations in Uruguay took on the enormous task of collecting the signatures of 2% of the country’s voters in order to activate the consultation ballot that would challenge the abortion law, which was approved by a one-vote margin by the Senate on October 2012. 

Opponents needed 665,000 votes on the consultation ballot (25% of registered voters) to force the referendum. But Uruguay’s Electoral Council reported that only 8.65% (226,653) of voters participated in the ballot in late June.


The government had refused to make an official campaign that would call voters to participate and instead hid information about the location of the voting centers that would be open, according to the pro-life group HazteOir.

The Broad Front, which is the governing party, also called people to defend the law by not voting. However, ex-president Tabaré Vázquez, a Broad Front member, called his fellow citizens to vote, saying: “This is one of the things on which we shouldn’t have to worry about political costs. I said I would vote. Everyone in Uruguay knows what I think, there are no secrets.” 

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When president in 2008, Tabaré Vázquez made use of the presidential veto in order to ban a similar abortion law that had been approved by the Parliament. 

Claudia Fernández, a TV celebrity, was censured by her producers when she appeared on a social networks video inviting people to vote. In only a few minutes over 450,000 people saw the video, but it was removed 4 days after its initial launch. 

The Uruguayan Bishops wrote a letter to the people saying: “we have the opportunity to say yes to the lives of children with our vote. This will allow us to look with hope to our nation’s future. The right to life can never be subject to voting, as it comes from God, but before an unjust law we exhort you to vote on June the 23rd so that we may be able to repeal the law that this day allows the crime of abortion.” 

Germán Cardoso, who is president of the House of Representatives, declared to the press that he thought the consultation ballot was the most important democratic exercise of “the last 30 years.” He believed that even though Uruguayans have a history of apathy towards politics, they would be moved to participate to protect the life of the unborn. It was not so, however. 

The Senate passed the law that approves abortion by choice on October 2012, allowing women to end their pregnancies during the first 12 weeks. 

Uruguay became the second country to pass such a law in Latin America; Cuba’s current abortion laws stand since 1968. Uruguay is considered one of the most liberal countries of the region, as just last April homosexual “marriages” were made legal as well. 


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