Argentina: Senators reject bill to legalise abortion

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Argentina's Senate on Wednesday began debating a bill that would legalize elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy in the homeland of Pope Francis, setting up a vote that could reverberate around the region.

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.

The current model in Argentina - which criminalizes the woman except in cases where there is a danger to the life or health of the woman, or in case of rape - has led to more than 3,000 Argentine women losing their lives over the past 30 years and a further 49,000 per year putting their health and lives at risk. But, hey, who's to say she wouldn't've been a supporter of reproductive rights?

Pope Francis, who is from Argentina, denounced abortion earlier this year, calling it the "white glove" equivalent of the Nazi-era eugenics program.

People set a fire outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires. These centers provide food, medical assistance, psychological counseling, and legal advice to pregnant mothers in difficulty.

"We're convinced this isn't the right path", lawmaker Inés Brizuela, who opposed the bill, said after the vote. Last year, Chile made it easier for women to access legal abortions under certain circumstances.

More than 75 percent of Argentines still consider themselves Catholic, but the opposition to the abortion bill also came from Protestant and evangelical congregations, prompting the bishops' conference to acknowledge that "ecumenical dialogue and inter-religious dialogue has grown at this time of joining forces to protect life".

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She says it's a "sad day. not only because of the way the vote went but the way the campaign for and against went".

Demonstrations outside Congress were largely peaceful, but small groups of protesters clashed with police following the results.

Celia Szusterman, trustee of the United Kingdom board of Pro-Mujer and director of the Latin America programme at the Institute for Statecraft, told CNN that the vote was "a step backward for women's rights and women's health".

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

In addition to legalizing the procedure within 14 weeks of conception, the bill would have allowed girls 13 years of age and older to get an abortion. Thousands of women, majority poor, are hospitalized each year for complications linked due to unsafe abortions - the main cause of maternal death.

"When the lower house result occurred, (the hierarchy) started to understand something similar could happen with the senators so the Argentine church and various movements and associations became frontally against the bill", said Jose Maria Poirier, publisher of the Catholic magazine Criterio. Sooner rather than later, women will have the decision they need, sooner rather than later we will win this debate,"Pichetto said in his closing speech". Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whose administration was against legalizing abortion, voted in favor of the bill. "Children should be accepted as they come, as God sends them, as God allows, even if at times they are sick", he said.

The so-called "green wave" protests that have gained traction in recent months grew out of Argentina's #NiUnaMenos, or "not one less", movement against gender-based violence.

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