Bishops Excommunicate Lawmakers Who Legalized Abortion in Uruguay

Montevideo, Uruguay - As a consequence of passing legislation that would make Uruguay the second Latin American country to legalize abortion, Catholic bishops in Uruguay have excommunicated lawmakers that cast votes supporting the bill.

Bishop Heriberto Bodeant, secretary for the Uruguayan bishops' conference, explained that the moment lawmakers voted against life, they basically excommunicated themselves.

"Automatic excommunication is for those who collaborate in the execution of an abortion in a direct way … if a Catholic votes … with the manifest intention that he thinks the Church is wrong about this, he separates himself from the communion of the Church," Bodeant said in a statement.

"Excommunication means you are not in communion with the ecclesial community to which you openly claim to belong by doing something that puts you outside communion, and therefore you cannot participate in the Eucharist," he added.

The vote to legalize abortion came after Uruguay's lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, voted to pass the law by just one vote, 50-49. There were several local reports of lawmakers forgoing the vote, citing conflicting interests between their faith and conscience. The votes were still cast, but were done by replacements.

Under the new law, women would be granted the right to obtain a legal abortion anytime during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. First, however, they must consult with a panel of three medical professionals who would advise the patient of the risks of abortions and introduce other alternatives available, such as adoption and social welfare programs.

The law would also permit abortion in the event of rape or incest up to the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The law would decriminalize late-term abortions should the mother's life be at risk, or if the fetus is determined to be too deformed to survive after birth.

"This is a sad day for Uruguay and for Latin America, which for the most part has stood strong against pressure from powerful Western governments to cut their birth rates to a level with which wealthy elites will be more comfortable," Shenan J. Boquet, Human Life International President, said in a statement.

"The 'bright spot' on this dark day appears to be that there will be required counseling on options other than abortion … these measures allow women to make more thoughtful and life-affirming choices for their children and themselves," he added.

Pablo Abdala, a member of the National Party opposed to the new law, has come out and publicly denounced the law, calling it a violation of human rights. He has also promised to promote a popular referendum to overturn the law should Uruguayan President Jose Mijica allow the bill to become law.