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Argentine senators vote no to legalisation of abortion

The staunchly catholic country had been voting on whether or not to become just the third Latin American country to entirely decriminalise abortion.

Argentina Abortion Anti-abortion demonstrators celebrate in the wake of the vote Source: AP/PA Images

ARGENTINE SENATORS HAVE 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.

According to an official tally, 38 senators voted against, 31 in favor, while two abstained.

The vote was welcomed by fireworks and shouts of joy among anti-abortion activists gathered outside of Congress.

At the other end of the square, tears were seen streaming down the faces of pro-abortion advocates, many wearing the green scarves that had come to symbolise their cause.

A handful of demonstrators started fires and threw stones as they clashed with riot police.

Polarised

After Ireland voted to legalise abortion in May, the jury had been out on whether Argentina, another traditionally Catholic country, would do the same, amid fiercely polarised campaigns on the hot-button issue.

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 – 37 of the 72 senators had made it known they would say no.

Lawmakers must now wait a year to resubmit the legislation.

Argentina Abortion Pro-choice activists demonstrating in the wake of the vote, outside Congress in Buenos Aires Source: AP/PA Images

As the lawmakers settled in for what turned out to be a marathon session that stretched past midnight into the early hours of this morning, demonstrators on both sides rallied outside Congress.

Abortion rights supporters wore green scarves while anti-abortion activists donned baby blue. A partition was set up to keep them separated.

Scores of buses have brought people into Buenos Aires from other parts of Argentina to join the dueling rallies, city hall said.

Despite the negative projections and strong opposition from the highly influential Catholic Church in the homeland of Pope Francis, abortion rights proponents were not giving up hope.

“We’re doing everything so that the initiative passes. We have faith in the street movement,” leading campaigner Julia Martino told AFP.

Currently, abortion is allowed in Argentina in only three cases, similar to most of Latin America: rape, a threat to the mother’s life or if the foetus is disabled.

Had it passed, the bill would have legalised abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and would have seen Argentina join Uruguay and Cuba as the only countries in Latin America to fully decriminalise abortion.

Argentina Abortion Contrast: A pro-choice activist holds her head in her hands (above) after the vote, while anti-abortion demonstrators celebrate (below) Source: PA Images

Argentina Abortion Source: AP/PA Images

Amendment

It’s also legal in Mexico City. Only in the Central American trio of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua does it remain totally banned.

With the tide seemingly flowing against legalisation, abortion rights groups tried to amend the bill to reduce from 14 to 12 weeks the period during which it would be permitted, but that move failed.

Former president Cristina Kirchner, currently a senator, who refused to back legal abortion during her two terms as the country’s leader, made her first public appearance in weeks to support the bill.

“The thousands of girls who turned to the street made me change my mind,” she said.

© – AFP, 2018

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