Uruguay legalizes first-trimester abortion

Anti-abortion activists protest outside the Uruguayan Congress building in Montevideo on Dec. 27, 2011.

Uruguay's Senate has voted to legalize abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, making it the third country in Latin America, after Cuba and Guyana, to allow the practice.

Legislation that revised a previous proposal to permit abortion was passed in a 17 to 14 vote, the BBC reported. The BBC added that religion has been an impediment to officially permitting abortion, as Uruguay — like much of the South American continent — is predominantly Catholic.

The success of the narrowly-won vote has been attributed to the progressive government of President Jose Mujica, a former leftist Tupamaro fighter who took office in 2010.

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Opposition leaders have vowed to push for the law to be overturned, Reuters reported.

But the Uruguayan public is narrowly in favor of legal abortion, according to the results of a recent survey by local polling group Cifra, which found 52 percent of respondents favored the move, Reuters said.

"Under the new measure, abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy becomes decriminalized, and becomes a procedure that clinics can carry out," CNN wrote.