Argentina's senate rejects abortion bill

Argentina's abortion campaigners braced for crucial vote

Argentina's abortion campaigners braced for crucial vote

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 streets of Buenos Aires transformed into a fire-filled riot after Argentina's Senate voted against the legalisation of abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

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

The bill was passed by Congress's lower house in June by the narrowest of margins, but was widely expected to fall short of the votes needed to pass in the Senate.

Following Thursday's vote against voluntary abortion, the Catholic Church in Argentina seeks to remain a place of welcome for mothers facing hard, unforeseen, or unwanted pregnancies.

The lower house of Congress has already passed the measure and Argentine President Mauricio Macri says he will sign it if approved by the Senate.

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. Pope Francis, who was born in Argentina, has yet to publicly comment on the law that was rejected yesterday. Women found guilty of having illegal abortions can serve up to four years in prison, and medical professionals involved in such procedures can go to prison for up to six years.

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Uruguay and Cuba are the only Latin American countries that now have broadly legalized abortion. "Caring for life is the first human right and the duty of the State". Current laws allow abortion only in cases of rape and when the mother's health is at risk.

"We're not deciding abortion yes or no".

At the same time, Cardinal Poli called on Catholics to find space in their communities to allow pregnant women in difficulty "to share their fears and to feel the embrace and tenderness of women who had the joy of giving birth to a child, despite all difficulties". In 2010, HRW claimed that Argentina's abortion ban violated worldwide treaties, even though none of the cited treaties mention abortions.

Amnesty International had told Argentinian politicians that "the world is watching", and Human Rights Watch said the country had a "historic opportunity" to protect women's rights.

"This is just the beginning - our movement will continue till we get the right to abortion", she said. 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.

It is also legal in Mexico City.

"We need to make an effort to resolve this", she said.

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