Parliament has given the green light for the legalisation of abortion in Switzerland. Under the amended law, women will be able to have an abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Voters are likely to have the final say on the issue.
The decision came after eight years of discussions on easing the abortion laws and is aimed at finding a uniform solution for regulations currently in place in different parts of the country.
Abortion is technically illegal under a law dating back to 1942, unless a woman's health is in danger. But several cantons have introduced more liberal solutions in the past few years.
About 13,000 abortions are carried out in Switzerland every year.
The amended law would permit women to have an abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, provided they submit a written request to a doctor, giving reasons why having a child would put them in a difficult personal situation.
Under the new regulations, the authorities would provide lists of all clinics and doctors licensed to carry out abortions and provide counselling, if requested.
During Wednesday's debate in Lugano, the House of Representatives followed the Senate in rejecting a proposal which called for counselling to be made mandatory.
However, the Christian Democratic Party, which has its strongholds in traditionally Catholic areas of the country, has threatened to challenge the new law in a referendum.
The party is due to decide on Friday whether to start collecting the 50,000 signatures needed to force a nationwide vote on the issue.
The women's group of the party is divided over the issue. Doris Leuthard, a Christian Democratic parliamentarian, told swissinfo that it would not actively support the referendum.
A people's initiative by a pro-life group is also pending. It is calling for a complete ban on abortion.
by Urs Geiser