Argentina's Senate Rejects Legalizing Abortion, Dashing Hopes Of Rights Advocates

Argentina's abortion campaigners braced for crucial vote

The bill is expected to fall short of the necessary votes to pass into law

Global reproductive rights advocates joined Argentinian women in mourning the bill's defeat, but credited the country's pro-choice movement with building momentum toward securing abortion rights in Argentina as well as across Latin America, where only Uruguay, Cuba, Guyana, and Mexico City allow abortion in early pregnancy.

Senate lawmakers voted 38 to 31 against the measure, which would have allowed abortion for the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

For long hours, thousands of supporters wearing green handkerchiefs that represent the effort to legalize abortion and opponents of the measure wearing light blue, braved the heavy rain and cold temperatures in Argentina's winter to watch the debate on large screens set up outside Congress.

Natalia Carol, a 23-year-old supporter of legalized abortion, said she is "still optimistic".

Ahead of the Senate vote in Argentina, President Mauricio Macri called the debate "a win for democracy".

But the grassroots movement behind the legislation was buoyed by coming closer than ever to achieving approval for abortion and activists vowed to keep pressing to expand women's reproductive rights.

Speaking to a delegation of the Forum of Family Associations at the Vatican, Francis denounced today's abortion culture and urged his hearers to accept human life as it comes from the hand of God. But despite that, an estimated half a million women have illegal terminations every year.

Global human rights and women's groups closely followed the campaign, and figures such as US actress Susan Sarandon and "The Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood supported the cause.

Argentina now allows the procedure only in cases of rape or risks to a woman's health.

Activists in favour of the legalization of abortion comfort each other outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires after senators rejected the bill to legalize abortion. "We have to go to the causes of abortion and not abortion as a solution". In June, however, he likened abortions meant to prevent birth defects to the Nazi eugenics program.

Hundreds of thousands demonstrated on the day of the vote, with police separating the pro-life and pro-abortion rights campaigns. "It doesn't reduce abortions - it just makes them unsafe", said Amnesty International secretary general Salil Shetty in an interview with the progressive UK Guardian last April.

There are at least 350,000 illegal abortions in Argentina every year, the Ministry of Health estimates, though global human rights groups say the number may be higher. Chile had been the last country in South America to ban abortion in all cases, though several nations in Central America still have absolute prohibitions.

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

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