From risk and harm reduction to decriminalizing abortion: The Uruguayan model for women's rights

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2016 Aug:134 Suppl 1:S3-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2016.06.003.


Objective: To describe public policies, social actions, particularly those of obstetricians/gynecologists, and changes in abortion-related legislation in the different historical periods between 1990 and 2015, and to analyze temporal correlations with a reduction in maternal mortality.

Methods: The 1990-2015 period was divided into three different stages to permit evaluation of the legislation, health regulations, healthcare system, and professional practices related to the care provided in cases of unsafe abortion: 1990-2001, characterized by illegality and the healthcare system's denial of abortion; 2001-2012, when the model for reducing the risk and harm of unsafe abortions was developed; and 2012-2015, when abortion was finally decriminalized.

Results: Changes in public policies and expansion of the risk reduction model coincided with changes in the social perception of abortion and a decrease in maternal mortality and abortion rates, probably due to a set of public policies that led to the decriminalization of abortion in 2012.

Conclusion: Changes in public policies and health actions such as the model for reducing the risk and harm of unsafe abortions coincided with a marked reduction in abortion-related maternal mortality. The challenges still to be faced include managing second trimester abortions, ensuring the creation of multidisciplinary teams, and offering postabortion contraception.

Keywords: Abortion laws; Maternal mortality; Reducing risks; Unsafe abortion; Uruguay.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Abortion, Legal / psychology
  • Female
  • Harm Reduction
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Mortality / trends
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Social Perception
  • Uruguay
  • Women's Rights*