Celebrations and anger as Argentine Senate rejects abortion bill


Argentine senators on Thursday voted against legalising abortion in the homeland of Pope Francis, dashing the hopes of women's rights groups after the bill was approved by Congress's lower house in June.

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.

After a marathon debate, 38 senators voted against it and 31 in favour.

Police were deployed in large numbers around the National Congress in Buenos Aires, working to curb any disturbance as the debate went on.

Pro-abortion campaigners have for years tried to get bills passed, but their efforts gained new impetus when President Mauricio Macri - who himself opposes abortion - called on Congress to consider it. For now, abortion will only remain an option in cases of rape or if the mother's life is in danger.

Don't miss out on the latest news and information. While abortion-rights activists chanted "legal abortion at the hospital", the Catholic Church held a "Mass for Life", said the CNN.

Paula Avila-Guillen, a director of Women's Equality Center, an abortion rights advocacy group, tells Reuters that the bill's supporters are prepared to regroup.

Chile's constitutional Court past year upheld legislation ending the Andean nation's absolute ban on abortions, permitting the procedure when a woman's life is in danger, when a fetus is not viable or in cases of rape.

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Activists estimate that 3,000 women in Argentina have died of illegal abortions since 1983. Thousands of women, a lot of them poor, are hospitalized each year for complications linked due to unsafe abortions - the main cause of maternal death.

Soros also funds the pro-abortion Human Rights Watch (HRW), which has worked to pressure pro-life countries to legalize abortion.

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

Global human rights and women's groups have been closely following the vote, and figures such as US actress Susan Sarandon and "The Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood supported the pro-abortion cause in Argentina.

The move was also condemned by Amnesty International, which said Argentina had squandered an historic opportunity.

Rallies took place around the world in front of Argentine diplomatic missions, mainly in support of the bill.

Catholic and evangelical groups protested abortion with the slogan, "Argentina, filicide (child murder) will be your ruin".

Uruguay and Cuba are the only two countries in Latin America to have decriminalised abortion.