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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lessons in Progressive Politics by Michael Cook

Something unexpected happened when Uruguayan politicians tried to liberalise their country's archaic abortion laws. 

Tabaré VázquezIt's a familiar  scenario: a tall, photogenic, charismatic left-leaning President who outsmarted traditional political forces to win office with 51.7 percent of the national vote. His platform is social justice, tax reform, human rights, better health coverage, and banning smoking in public. His party controls both houses of the legislature. Elected in the midst of an economic crisis, the pundits described his campaign of hope as "the most profound political rupture in recent history".

And despite diplomatic rows, environmental controversies and a bitter dispute over free trade, perhaps the most controversial decision of his term is a Congressional proposal to dramatically liberalise abortion.

So what did President Tabaré Vázquez, do about a bill to give Uruguay the most progressive abortion law in Latin America?He vetoed it.

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Here's an excerpt from his speech on why he vetoed the bill:

The true degree of civilisation of a nation is measured by how the neediest are protected. Therefore we must protect the weakest amongst us. Because the criterion is not the value of the subject with respect to how others respond to him, or his usefulness, but the value which exists due to his mere existence...

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