Argentina Senate rejects voluntary abortion law


Argentina's Senate voted Thursday to not legalize elective abortion in the primarily Catholic country that's been heatedly divided over the issue.

Outraged by lawmakers' rejection of a bill that would have legalized abortion Wednesday night, women's rights advocates in Argentina clashed with police, who wore riot gear and sprayed tear gas at protesters.

Senators voted 38-31 against the measure early August 9 following a 15-hour debate.

Abortion has always been illegal in Argentina: Currently, if a woman is found to have undergone the procedure (in instances other than rape or if the mother's life is in danger), she can be jailed for up to four years.

"The global community has called on Argentina on several occasions to amend its legislation as it violates the human rights of women and girls. It is an unforgiveable step backwards", said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

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. "Some patients had abortions using knitting needles and we could never know who was responsible for that". She said her mother had to do a clandestine abortion years ago when her infant died in the womb after seven months due to an infection.

The Argentine bishops' conference hailed the vote, saying the debate in the country opened an opportunity for dialogue and a chance to focus more on social ministry.

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.

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The Senate debate revealed deep divisions in Argentina, where support for decriminalizing abortion drew stronger support in Buenos Aires, the capital, than in the more conservative provinces. But, hey, who's to say she wouldn't've been a supporter of reproductive rights?

Women's movements across South America have been pushing against decades-old abortion prohibitions.

"What this vote showed is that Argentina is still a country that represents family values", anti-abortion activist Victoria Osuna, 32, told Reuters. Last year, Chile made it easier for women to access legal abortions under certain circumstances.

"It was the thousands of young women who went out to the streets who made me change my opinion", she told the Senate Wednesday.

"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.

Opponents, meanwhile, insist life begins at conception and complain the bill could force doctors to perform the procedure even when they believe it is hazardous. George Soros has also been a major player in the financing of pro-abortion lobbyists through his Open Society foundations.

"Today no one won", wrote the women who posts under the name Veronnica Diaz.