Mon Jan 30, 2023
January 30, 2023

Great victory for women in Uruguay

The decriminalization of abortion in Uruguay which has just been endorsed by the Senate of that country represents a great achievement not only for women in Uruguay, but also for all working and poor women of the whole of Latin America. For in our continent abortion is legal only in Cuba (since 1965) and in the Mexico City (since 2007), and the recent legalization in Uruguay may serve as a boost for the campaign to legalize abortion in all the countries of Latin America, a so urgent and long claimed measure.

Surely, this achievement will strengthen the fight across the continent so that, in all Latin American countries, the legislation is changed and women are not penalized anymore, whenever they want to terminate the pregnancy. Thus, the procedure could be done in a public hospital, with appropriate medical care, preventing millions of women from dying or from suffering with the severe sequelae left as a result of an abortion performed in rudimentary conditions.

In Latin America it will be a great victory because, in general, women who most need abortion are the poorest ones and the workers, who cannot have children because they do not have enough material conditions of living to sustain them, and so, they need to make an abortion with full guarantee that they will come out alive. What is rare in Brazil, for example, where nearly 200 000 women, if they do not die, they get extremely serious health problems as a result of unsafe abortions.

Dilma Rousseff, which is of the PT, a party whose program included the flag of the abortion legalization, must change her attitude and instead of burying this flag as a one more promise to be forgotten, she has, at least, to follow what governments such as Jose Mujica from Uruguay, have done, and to commit her political strength to approve the abortion decriminalization in Brazil.

It would end up with a huge mortality that occurs only in countries where the laws are deeply retrograde. In the advanced countries like the European ones and the United States, laws were upgraded as a result of long struggle of women and men, and such mortality has not happened since a long time ago.

In the USSR, the first act of the socialist revolution of October 1917 was precisely to abolish these reactionary laws imposed by the bourgeoisie, and legalize abortion and divorce.

How was the case in Uruguay

Currently, every adult woman in Uruguay has the right to terminate pregnancy in the first twelve weeks. There is no abortion time limit only in cases of sexual violence, life-threatening for the mother or severe fetal malformation.

The project will be discussed in February, in the House of Representatives, but its approval there has also been taken for granted because the Frente Ampla[1] has the majority of the votes. And the President José Mujica has already expressed support for the project approved by the Senate and promised to enact the law, in case it is approved by the House of Representatives.

According to an unofficial data, 44 abortions for each thousand of women are carried out in Uruguay. However, in Uruguay the abortion was never an issue as serious and dramatic as it is in other Latin American countries because Uruguayan women have always fought hard and, as a result, had their demands achieved. Since 2004, for example, there is a medical assistance program that provides guidance to women planning to abort. Even if abortion was, at that time, still considered a crime, and former President Tabare Vasquez declared to be against it, many women could have an abortion under safe conditions thanks to this program.

Despite this program, called “Clinical Standards and Guidelines for Pre and Post Abortion Care,” be implemented in only one hospital, the Pereyra Rossell, it presented a positive result because that is the main public hospital in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, and responsible for 20% of the births in the country. So any woman who wants to terminate a pregnancy, for any reason whatsoever, can find a doctor at this hospital for every kind of advice on which the safest method to carry out the abortion.

Most women who appeals to the program (80%) choose to interrupt the pregnancy by choosing to take the drug misoprostol, recommended by doctors. The program also provides them appropriate care in the period after-abortion so as not to experience significant bleeding or another type of complications.

This program, despite its limitations, has saved many lives, because at the time it was created in 2004, abortion was responsible for 48% of deaths in hospital. Since then, no death was recorded for this reason.

Now, with the abortion’s decriminalization, this program shall be extended to all the hospitals in Uruguay and women who wish so may go through an abortion surgery in the hospital and with the same doctor who assist them.

Why is it important to legalize the abortion?

The abortion’s legalization or decriminalization (when the law does not lay down any punishment for women who go through an abortion) is very important because so many women now have the right to choose to continue or not continue with the pregnancy until the child’s birth. Those who want can have the child, and those who do not want, can interrupt the pregnancy. In this confusing world we live in, with so many social problems, many women end up changing their minds and decide to no longer have the child.

Other women are raped; rape is a national wound, not a day goes by without a woman is raped in most countries of the world. Many of these rapes end up in pregnancy. This woman who was raped must have the right to interrupt the pregnancy if she wishes or if she does not have the life material conditions to raise a child or both.

To give birth to a child is something very important in the life of a woman, and she must be able to raise the child with comfort, providing good nutrition and health, a fine home and an education of quality. If none of this exists, we can classify as a great adventure the birth of a child. Unfortunately, this is the reality of most women in Brazil.

Many women are religious and therefore believe that life already exists on the fetus. Therefore, they are against abortion and think women may never end a pregnancy because they will be committing a crime. We do not share this opinion, but if these women have the right to think so, others who do not think that way, must also have the right to think freely and acting in accordance with their convictions. Not all women are religious, but all must be open to accepting diversity of opinion.

As stated by the Uruguayan Monica Xavier, a Socialist senator, a member of the Frente Ampla, the ruling party, “we cannot claim the right to say that anyone who takes pregnancy to term and have the child is doing well, while those who do not, by whatever reason, is doing wrong “(O Estado de S. Paulo, 29/12/11).

She’s right, because the right to decide over their own bodies, over their own lives, should belong to all and not just to those who are against abortion. An yet more deeply when we know that those who most need the guarantee of this right are the poor women who are in a blind alley: they have no money to raise the children, they did not have access to formal education nor did they had sex education to learn how to plan their affective lives; they have no money to pay doctors, lawyers, hospitals, nothing. The State has to take responsibility for solving these social problems, as it does not guarantee full employment for all women and men, it does not guarantee decent wages, housing and other basic conditions that enable a poor woman the right to motherhood and to a workers’ family the right to raise their children with dignity.

Those who condemn the abortion because it “goes against motherhood” should know that the best way to support motherhood is just supporting the right to abortion, as well as the best way to support the family is to support the right to divorce and freedom of men and women to the separation. The forced motherhood is a problem that the woman will carry for the rest of her life as a pressure against family unity, as well as forced marriage, the marriage “for the rest of life”, when it goes against the desire of the couple, is a fragile marriage, permanently threatened with disintegration.

What does “go against motherhood” is just the poverty and misery, the lack of women’s rights and life’s material conditions for workers, whose families have long suffered the disaggregation and abandonment, and the State does not offer any alternative to this increasingly desperate situation. In this country, the only ones who are entitled to a decent family are the rich families. This has to be changed, and the abortion’s legalization is an important step to repair this injustice and save thousands of lives, as it has been occurring in Uruguay since 2004.

Dilma Rousseff must do the same here in Brazil, on an urgent basis. It is unacceptable that in a country ruled by a woman, millions of poor women still suffer because of a backward law, which condemns them as criminals just because they interrupt pregnancy, a simple procedure that is already practiced legally in various hospitals in the world where women do not put their lives at risk.

*Cecilia Toledo is the author of the book “Mulheres: o gênero nos une, a classe nos divide” (Women: Gender unites us, the social class divides us)

[1] Frente Ampla (Broad front) – the parties coalition that runs the country.

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