Published: Sat, August 11, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Argentine Senate rejects historic abortion law

Argentine Senate rejects historic abortion law

In a victory for pro-life advocates in Argentina, the country's Senate rejected a bill on Thursday to legalize voluntary abortion into the 14 week of pregnancy. Thirty-eight senators voted against the legislation, while 31 voted in favor, with two abstaining and one absent.

In Brazil, which is home to the world's largest population of Catholics as well as fast-growing evangelical faiths, abortion is illegal, with three exceptions: if a woman is raped, pregnancy puts her life in danger, or the fetus is brain-dead. Most of the clashes quickly died down.

Sen. Silvina García Larraburu, the most recent lawmaker to reverse course, explained to local media earlier this week that her decision "has to do with my most intimate convictions".

Many had camped in front of Argentina's National Congress since Wednesday night.

Almost two months after lawmakers in the country's lower house of Congress approved the bill by a slim margin, senators will decide whether to send the bill on to President Mauricio Macri - who, despite his personal misgivings, has said he would sign it into law. And the bill lost momentum over the weekend when an opposition senator withdrew her support.

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Global human rights and women's groups are following the vote, and figures such as USA actress Susan Sarandon and Canadian author Atwood have supported the pro-abortion cause in Argentina.

Despite the strict abortion ban, hundreds of thousands of women in Argentina are still having abortions. Mario Fiad called abortion a "tragedy and said he opposed the legislation, arguing it is unconstitutional and violates global treaties". The Health Ministry estimated in 2016 that the country sees as many as a half million clandestine abortions each year. The ad metaphorically says goodbye to unsafe methods that women use in order to get an abortion when one is not legally or financially available to them.

The move to legalize abortion in Argentina is a "public health and human rights imperative", said New York-based Human Rights Watch. "It was so divisive". Its defeat means lawmakers must wait until next year to resubmit legislation.

"The right to life is about to become the weakest of rights", said Mr Fiad.

Since the Pope's comments, abortion opponents have pushed back against the bill, with thousands rallying in rural areas of the country and in the streets of Buenos Aires, wearing blue bandanas emblazoned with the slogan "Save both lives".

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Argentine Senators announced the vote results after an impassioned debate that ran into the early hours of Thursday.

What's Argentina's current stand on abortion?

Meanwhile, at the city's Metropolitan Cathedral, a "mass for life" was held in support of keeping laws unchanged.

If the bill should overcome its long odds and gain passage, it will place Argentina in some rare company among traditionally conservative Latin American countries, joining Cuba, Uruguay and Guyana as the few to legalize elective abortion.

"We're talking about the right to live in dignity, with autonomy, to be able to choose freely", added the 67-year-old mother of three. Human rights groups have also expressed their support and urged Argentine legislators to approve the bill and protect women's right to life and reproductive rights.

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Senators in Argentina have voted against legalising abortion in the homeland of Pope Francis.

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