Argentina Senate votes against legalizing abortion

Cheryl Sanders
August 11, 2018

On Thursday, anti-abortion activists and abortion-rights advocates - many wearing green bandanas that have come to symbolize the country's growing women's rights movement - stood outside the National Congress as the Senate debate dragged on for more than 16 hours before finally going to a vote.

The Senate voted 38-31 against the proposed measure, which would have legalized a woman's right to seek an abortion into the 14th week of pregnancy.

That dealt a hammer blow to the Catholic Church, which is as revered in Ireland as it is in Argentina.

This week, Amnesty International doubled down, taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times urging Argentina to legalize abortion, with the ominous warning: The world is watching.

While abortion rights activists waited for the decision under umbrellas, opponents gathered Wednesday night at a "Mass for Life" at the Metropolitan Cathedral, the church of Pope Francis during his tenure as the archbishop of Buenos Aires.

The issue has divided the homeland of Pope Francis.

Pushed by a wave of demonstrations by women's groups, the lower house had already passed the measure and conservative President Mauricio Macri had said that he would sign it, even though he is anti-abortion. The bill would have expanded abortion rights beyond current laws that allow it only in cases of rape or health risks to a mother.

But the Supreme Federal Tribunal recently held an extraordinary session to hear arguments on whether to allow elective abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In 2010, it became the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage.

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.

Now abortion is allowed in Argentina only in cases of rape, or if the mother's health is in danger. But in June, he said getting an abortion to avoid birth defects is similar to Nazi eugenics programmes.

"Just because the bill got shot down, it will not stop the movement", she said. "We have to go to the causes of abortion and not abortion as a solution".

When the result was told to the demonstrators - who were separated by police and riot fences - the pro-life camp set off fireworks in celebration, and the pro-choice side threw rocks and lit fires in protest.

"The human-rights group says that over the past 30 years, complications from risky abortions have accounted for a third of the maternal deaths in Argentina".

His sentiments were shared by 21-year-old Camila Sforza, who said she remained hopeful despite the setback.

Tensions ran high during the legislative debate - which lasted well into the morning - with some members of the lower chamber being barred from the Argentine Senate and the vice president hurling insults at a senator.

It is also legal in Mexico City.

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