Argentina's Senate rejects legalizing abortion, in Pope Francis' homeland


The rejected bill would have legalized abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy for all women.

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.

In Argentina, abortion is only allowed in cases of rape and risks to a woman's health. Opponents of the bill celebrated the decision on the streets outside Congress with fireworks as they waved Argentine flags.

The vote, with 38 against, 31 in favor and two abstentions, capped a marathon session that began the day before and stretched into the early hours of Thursday.

Last June, Pope Francis-who is Argentinian-compared the practice of abortion to Nazi eugenics and ethnic cleansing.

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The world was watching and Argentina's senators failed.

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

"The human-rights group says that over the past 30 years, complications from risky abortions have accounted for a third of the maternal deaths in Argentina".

Meanwhile, at the city's Metropolitan Cathedral, a "mass for life" was held in support of keeping laws unchanged.

If the law had been approved, Argentina, a country of 44 million, would have been the most populous nation in Latin America to ease its strict anti-abortion law.

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Groups supporting legalized abortion also threatened to burn churches prior to the vote. "Children should be accepted as they come, as God sends them, as God allows, even if at times they are sick", he said.

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. "We have to go to the causes of abortion and not abortion as a solution".

In recent years, Argentina has been at the forefront of social movements in the region.

"Just because the bill got shot down, it will not stop the movement", said Paula Avila-Guillen, a director of Women's Equality Center, an abortion rights advocacy group. In 2010, it became the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage.

In Brazil, which is home to the world's largest population of Catholics as well as fast-growing evangelical faiths, abortion is illegal, with three exceptions: if a woman is raped, pregnancy puts her life in danger, or the fetus is brain-dead.

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In neighboring Chile, the Constitutional Court past year upheld a measure that would end that country's absolute ban on abortions, permitting abortions when a woman's life is in danger, when a fetus is not viable and in cases of rape.