A proposal for a national referendum on undoing the Uruguayan Congress' decision to decriminalize abortion garnered only 234,670 votes, far fewer than the 655,000 needed to secure a plebiscite, electoral officials said Monday.

Shortly after the polls closed on Sunday and once initial estimates of the vote became known the promoters of the initiative as well as pro-choice organizations expressed their disappointment and happiness, respectively.

Opposition lawmaker Pablo Abdala, the sponsor of the referendum, took responsibility for the failure of the measure but said that he accepted the disappointing blow "calmly."

The result, he said, "should not be taken ... as a definitive pronouncement by the citizenry ... (although) it is clear that during what remains of this government mandate (2010-2015) ... (it will be) difficult for this issue to be posed again."

Pro-choice organizations congratulated themselves on the results, which they called a "lesson" for the anti-abortion forces.

Uruguay "has decided, once more, to respect the right of women to be the masters of their body; for maternity and paternity to be choices and all children wanted," the group Everyday Woman said.

The legalization of abortion was approved last October and in January authorities announced that during its first month in effect 200 legal abortions were performed.

Before the measures was approved, it was estimated that more than 30,000 abortions were performed annually in the country, according to official figures, although in reality it could have been double that number, as per non-governmental organizations' claims. EFE