Abortion has been a criminal offence in Uruguay since 1938, but is permitted in order to preserve "family honour", as a result of rape, economic necessity, or if the woman’s life or health is endangered.

Except in cases where the pregnancy is considered a serious health risk, only a judge can determine whether an abortion performed in the first 12 weeks, meets the above requirements.

Advocates for abortion law reform have joined forces under Mujer y Salud en Uruguay (MYSU) to lobby Parliament. In December 2002, the lower chamber of Uruguay's Parliament passed "In Defence of Reproductive Health". This bill would legalize abortion in the first trimester, and mandate both public and private healthcare institutions to provide abortion services.

The bill has to be passed by the Senate in the face of opposition from the pro-life President, conservative politicians and the Catholic Church and anti-abortion groups.