Is abortion legal in Uruguay?
In 2012, the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy (VTP) law was passed, creating legal abortion services in the National Integrated Health System (NIHS). Abortion is legally accessible only if performed during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy (with some exceptions) by a health provider from the NIHS, and following these steps:
- Medical consultation in which the patient is informed about the law and referred to a multidisciplinary team.
- Interview with the disciplinary team (gynecologist, psychologist, social worker).
- Five day period to “reflect” on the decision.
- Confirmation of the decision by a gynecologist.
- Post-abortion care and contraceptive counseling.
If these steps are not followed and the criteria isn’t met, the abortion is considered illegal as established by the Penal Code, facing a three to nine month sentence.
Only Uruguayan citizens or foreigners with at least a year of residence in the country have access to abortion services.
In some parts of the country, high levels of conscientious objection by gynecologists (more than 60% of professionals available) have been a de facto barrier in access to abortion services. Certain cities reach up to 100% of conscientious objectors.
What are the different abortion services available?
- Medical abortion
- Surgical abortion
- Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA)
- Dilation and Curettage (D&C)
- Post-abortion care
It should be noted that MVA is rarely available as gynecologists are either not capable of performing it due to lack of training and proper equipment, or they refuse to do so. Consequently, 98% of abortions in Uruguay are medical abortions.
Who can perform abortions in Uruguay?
As established by the VTP law, only gynecologists are allowed to perform abortions in Uruguay.
Where can I go for abortion services?
All health providers of the NIHS are obliged to offer abortion services to their patients, with the exception of two health providers: Círculo Católico and Hospital Evangélico. These two providers were granted this exception based on religious grounds. They have an obligation to refer patients who seek abortion services to other providers.
What is the cost of an abortion?
Abortions are free of charge in Uruguay, although in private health providers, studies required (at least one echography and a beta-hCG level test) may have some cost. This varies depending on providers and isn’t regulated.
What are the legal and safe drugs available?
- Mifepristone (Mifeprex) plus misoprostol
Can I buy abortion pills at a pharmacy?
Although misoprostol can be acquired at pharmacies, it’s only sold if prescribed by a gastroenterologist. Abortion pills are provided by abortion services only.
Can I buy abortion pills online?
Not legally. Several clandestine sites have been closed since the VTP law.
Who can I contact for additional information and support?
- Mujer y Salud en Uruguay – MYSU: A feminist NGO defending sexual and reproductive rights.
- Mujeres en el Horno – Línea aborto: Safe abortion helpline
- Asociación de Ayuda al Seropositivo (ASEPO) – Línea Sida, Sexualidad y Derechos: Information and sexual health resources
- Iniciativas Sanitarias: Information and sexual health resources
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