Argentina´s senate rejects bill to legalise abortion

Argentina's Senate rejects bill to legalize abortion

Argentina's senate has rejected a bill which would have legalised abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

After a 15-hour debate, 31 senators voted in favour and 38 voted against a bill legalising abortion in the overwhelmingly Catholic country. Abortion is now legal only if the pregnancy is the result of sexual assault or if the mother's life is in danger.

Pro-life activists rally outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires.

Earlier in the day, scores of buses had brought people from around the country into Buenos Aires for the dueling rallies outside Congress.

Pro-life and pro-choice campaigners had gathered outside parliament to hear the result. Most of the clashes quickly died down.

The measure had already passed Argentina's lower house of Congress, and President Mauricio Macri had said he would sign it if the Bill was approved by the Senate. And the bill lost momentum over the weekend when an opposition senator withdrew her support. About 60 Irish lawmakers, who legalized abortion in May, sent a letter to their Argentine counterparts pleading them to take the same action.

Argentina is not going back to this, it is important for the women, especially for the young women. "To see them criticize the realities of a patriarchal society should force all of us to look at this differently".

During the debate, conservative Senator Mario Fiad called abortion a "tragedy" and said he opposed the legislation, arguing that it was "unconstitutional".

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Maria Jose Benitez, a student who backed the campaign against legalization, said government could do more to help women financially and psychologically during pregnancy. "We're deciding abortion in a hospital, or illegal abortion, with a clothes hanger, or anything else that puts a woman in a humiliating, degrading situation - a real torture", she said. "It was so divisive". Its defeat means lawmakers must wait a year to resubmit legislation.

Senator Norma Durango from the Justice Party said she would work "until the last minute so that this becomes law", warning that those who vote against the bill would be "responsible for continuing deaths".

People who defend the right for women and pregnant persons to access legal and safe abortion to protect the lives of between 370,000 - 520,000 people who get unsafe abortions in underground clinics have vowed to fill the streets surrounding congress to demand the approval of the law. Argentine law guarantees life from the moment of conception.

In recent weeks the so-called "green wave" demonstrations have spread outside of Argentina too. A few supporters of abortion rights threw missiles and rocks at police, who retaliated by firing tear gas and water cannon. According to Argentina's Ministry of Health, at least 350,000 illegal abortions are carried out in the country each year.

Groups supporting legalized abortion also threatened to burn churches prior to the vote.

Pope Francis, a native of Argentina, also largely stayed on the sidelines, except for a strong denunciation of abortion in June.

Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico and Uruguay permit early-term elective abortions, as does Mexico City.

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