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Uruguay lawmakers vote to legalize early abortions

MONTEVIDEO -- Uruguay's Congress voted narrowly on Wednesday to legalize abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, a rare move in largely Catholic Latin America that underscores the country's liberal leanings.

The Senate voted 17 to 14 in favor of the bill, which was passed by the lower house last month after 14 hours of debate. President Jose Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla fighter, has said he would sign the bill into law.

During the debate, ruling party Senator Luis Gallo said, “with this law, we are joining the ranks of developed countries that have largely adopted a stance to liberalize, recognizing the failure of criminal laws to avoid abortions.”

Latin America is home to about half of the world's Roman Catholics and the Church is opposed to abortion under any circumstances. But Uruguay, a country of 3.2 million people, has a strong secular tradition.

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