Argentine Senate debates measure to legalize abortion

A child holds up a banner that reads in Spanish

Argentine senators rejected a bill to legalize abortion after an impassioned debate ran into the early hours of Thursday, pushing back against a groundswell of support from a surging abortion rights movement.

The Senate debated a bill that would legalize elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, and eventually voted against it, keeping abortion limited to cases of rape or risks to a woman's health.

Many demonstrators braved a heavy rain and the cold of the Argentine winter waiting outside the Congress building.

President Mauricio Macri, who is against abortion, had already said he would sign the bill after the country's lower house chose to support it - but senators voted it down 38 to 31.

Don't miss out on the latest news and information. Argentina's lower house - the Chamber of Deputies - approved the bill legalizing abortion in June, and on Wednesday, the country's Senate took up the issue.

Demonstrations in support of the Argentine abortion bill were also held in countries such as Bolivia and Mexico. Advocates for the bill noted that fact complications from clandestine abortions are the leading cause of maternal deaths in Argentina.

In 2016, the organization sent 32 activists from Argentina and other nations to participate in the 60th UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Various charities estimate that 500,000 illegal, secret abortions are carried out every year in Argentina, resulting in around 100 deaths. "Caring for life is the first human right and the duty of the State".

For many of them, the methods used to induce an abortion include using an IV tube with a sharp wire clothes hanger or a knitting needle to try to break the amniotic sac inside womb.

The Pope also reiterated the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion this year, urging families "to accept the children that God gives them".

Hundreds of physicians have staged anti-abortion protests, in one case laying their white medical coats on the ground outside the presidential palace.

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

A partition was set up to keep the green-decked pro-abortion contingent separated from the anti-abortion activists who donned baby blue. Amnesty International told Argentine legislators that "the world is watching". There are three exceptions: if a woman is raped, pregnancy puts her life in danger, or the fetus is brain-dead. Uruguay and Cuba are the only Latin American countries with laws that broadly allow abortion, while Brazil's Supreme Court is in the process of deciding whether to decriminalize abortion in that country.

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