Argentina's Senate rejects bill to legalize abortion

Argentina Abortion Bill: Country Braces for Historic Vote to Legalize Abortion

The proposed legislation would have allowed abortions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy for women and girls as young as 13.

Pro-life advocates from the country's Catholic Church likely helped swing the vote in favor of life.

Natalia Carol, a 23-year-old supporter of legalized abortion, said she is "still optimistic".

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

Legalizing abortion is a particularly contentious issue in the predominantly Catholic region, as the Catholic Church says life begins at conception.

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The lower house of Congress had already passed the measure and President Mauricio Macri had said that he would sign it.

Despite false warnings to the contrary, no woman or medical professional is in prison for practicing abortion in Argentina, despite its illegal status.

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

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.

Various charities estimate that 500,000 illegal, secret abortions are carried out every year in Argentina, resulting in around 100 deaths. In 2010, it became the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage.

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Abortion is now a criminal offense in Argentina except in cases of rape, risk to the life of the mother, or when the baby is thought to be inviable outside the womb.

Global human rights and women's groups closely followed the campaign, and figures such as US actress Susan Sarandon and "The Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood supported the cause.

Backers of the measure said legalizing abortion would save the life of many women who now turn to risky illegal abortions. In June, however, he likened abortions meant to prevent birth defects to the Nazi eugenics program. "Children should be accepted as they come, as God sends them, as God allows, even if at times they are sick", he said.

The world was watching and Argentina's senators failed.

"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.

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"We need to make an effort to resolve this", she said. Feminists and other groups led even larger demonstrations in support of the measure, often wearing green that symbolizes the pro-abortion movement, or red cloaks and white bonnets like the characters from the novel-turned-TV series "The Handmaid's Tale". Chile had been the last country in South America to ban abortion in all cases, though several nations in Central America still have absolute prohibitions.

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