Founded in 1995, Mujer y Salud en Uruguay (MYSU, or “Women and Health in Uruguay”) began as part of a national network of nongovernmental organizations committed to advocating for women’s rights. The network was known for its national and international advocacy work related to sexual and reproductive rights and health, particularly monitoring the implementation of the landmark Cairo and Beijing conference agendas and other international agreements related to sexual and reproductive rights and health in Uruguay.
MYSU’s founders, Lilián Abracinskas and Alejandra López Gómez, are leading advocates for women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Uruguay. Both were members of Uruguay’s delegation to the Cairo and Beijing conferences, as well as the subsequent 10-year regional reviews.
The organization was instrumental in the passage of Law 18.987, signed into law in November 2012. Commonly known as “la ley de la interrupción voluntaria del embarazo” (“Law of Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy”), Law 18.987 permits abortion on any ground in the first trimester, and during the first 14 weeks in the case of rape and with no restrictions when a woman’s life is at risk or there are severe fetal anomalies.
MYSU is working to ensure citizens are aware of safe abortion services provided by national health system. MYSU, also, is currently monitoring implementation of the law by working with allies in the health sector to reduce the barriers women face in accessing services, such as bureaucratic hurdles and the conscientious objection of 30 percent of health professionals in the country. Although the Ministry of Health has not yet released official figures on the number of abortions provided, the Sub-Secretary of Health told the press that they had been notified of 300-400 of abortions per month. MYSU believes the number is likely higher, although they also suspect that many women are still seeking abortions outside the public health system.
While legislative victory in Uruguay is an inspiration for other pro-choice advocates in the region, advocates caution that the struggle to ensure access to safe, legal abortion does not end with legislation.
A national vote in Uruguay on whether to repeal the country’s law legalizing abortion failed to garner enough support. IWHC supported Mujer y Salud en Uruguay to advocate for reproductive rights and fight against the conservative efforts to roll back progress.
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