The new law is ‘‘insufficient, but it marks a milestone in the long-term fight that has just begun. Now its implementation will have to be monitored, to make sure it’s applied in all the hospitals,’’ said Romina Napiloti, a 27-year-old sociologist and abortion rights activist who watched the vote from the Senate gallery.
Another compromise provides a conscience exemption so that health care professionals opposed to abortion can avoid participating. Institutions such as Uruguay’s extensive Roman Catholic and evangelical hospital networks can opt out as well, but only if they make agreements with other institutions such as the public health care system so that any of their patients can get abortions elsewhere.
Dr. Maru Gonzalez, a gynecologist and bioethicist at the Universidad de la Republica, said she will do everything in her power to persuade other doctors in her field to boycott the review panels. But even then, she worries the law will fail to keep its goal of reducing the number of abortions overall.
‘‘This law changes abortion from a crime into a right in the sense that it’s being introduced into the public health system, and for those who support abortion, this is a gigantic advance,’’ she said. ‘‘For me, it’s a setback.’’
The measure also decriminalizes late-term abortions when a mother’s life is at risk or the fetus won’t survive. Rape victims would be able to get legal abortions through 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Judges would no longer be involved when adults seek the procedure, and while minors would need court approval, they need not get permission beforehand from their parents. The law says a woman’s sex partner should be consulted, but only with her consent.
Maria Jose Del Campo, a 37-year-old engineer who was part of an anti-abortion group in the Senate gallery, said what’s missing in Uruguay is government support for women so that they don’t find themselves in situations where abortion seems the best alternative.
‘‘The real problem is to provide support and alternatives to this woman who ended up pregnant,’’ she said, citing long-stuck proposals in Congress to provide for more flexible workplace rules for pregnant women, such as job-sharing and government-paid maternity leave.
Associated Press writer Pablo Fernandez in Montevideo contributed to this report.