‘A Huge Step Backward’: Argentina’s Senate Rejects Bill to Legalize Abortion

Argentina Abortion Bill: Country Braces for Historic Vote to Legalize Abortion

Argentina Abortion Bill: Country Braces for Historic Vote to Legalize Abortion

In mid-June, Argentina's lower house voted in favor of the bill by just 129 to 125, thanks in part to the anti-abortion President Mauricio Macri's insistence on pushing the bill through the legislature.

While abortion-rights campaigners seemed to have a chance of success a few weeks ago, leaders of the Catholic Church spoke out against abortion, leading to senators from conservative provinces to vote against it, reported The New York Times.

Argentina now allows abortion only in cases of rape or risks to a woman's health and abortion rights activists say 3,000 women have died of illegal abortions since 1983.

Various charities estimate that 500,000 illegal, secret abortions are carried out every year in Argentina, resulting in around 100 deaths. Abortion is now legal only if the pregnancy is the result of sexual assault or if the mother's life is in danger.

The issue has divided the homeland of Pope Francis. Moreover, efforts to present abortion as a health emergency, calling clandestine abortions the primary cause of maternal death in the country, statistics show that this claim is simply false. "Caring for life is the first human right and the duty of the State". Feminist groups, in turn, have held protests, often wearing green that symbolizes their movement or outfits based on author Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale". A few supporters of abortion rights threw missiles and rocks at police, who retaliated by firing tear gas and water cannon.

The vote followed a referendum in Ireland, another traditionally Catholic country, in May that paved the way to legislate for the termination of fetuses.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, said Argentina had a "historic opportunity" to protect the rights of women.

The world was watching and Argentina's senators failed.

In a 28-31 vote, the Argentinian Senate rejected a bill that would have allowed women to obtain legal abortions up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy. There are three exceptions: if a woman is raped, pregnancy puts her life in danger, or a fetus is brain-dead. Had the proposal been adopted, Argentina would have become the largest Latin American nation to legalize abortion, after Cuba.

In neighboring Chile, the Constitutional Court previous year upheld a measure that would end that country's absolute ban on abortions, permitting abortions when a woman's life is in danger, when a fetus is not viable and in cases of rape.

Small groups rallied in other countries across the region to voice support for the Argentine abortion measure, including in Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru.

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