Argentina Senate Rejects Measure to Legalise Abortion

Argentina Senate Rejects Measure to Legalise Abortion

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Abortion rights activists gather as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires
Abortion rights activist holds a sign during a gathering as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 8, 2018. The sign reads "Legal abortion now." REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci
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By Scott Squires
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters)

Argentine senators rejected a bill to legalize abortion after an impassioned debate ran into the early hours of Thursday, pushing back against a groundswell of support from a surging abortion rights movement

The Senate voted 38 to 31 against the proposed measure, which would have legalized a woman’s right to seek an abortion into the 14th week of pregnancy. The bill had narrowly passed in the lower house in July.

 

Senator and former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner sits next to Senator Marcelo Fuentes as lawmakers debate on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires
Senator and former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner sits next to Senator Marcelo Fuentes as lawmakers debate on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Martin Acosta

 

Families and clergy in baby-blue bandanas gathered outside the congressional palace as the result came in just before 3 a.m., waving Argentine flags in support of the Catholic Church’s anti-abortion stance in Pope Francis‘ home country.

“What this vote showed is that Argentina is still a country that represents family values,” anti-abortion activist Victoria Osuna, 32, told Reuters.

 

 

Current Argentine law only permits abortions in cases of rape, or if the mother’s health is at risk.

Abortion rights supporters, clad in green bandanas that have become a symbol of the movement, danced to drum lines and swarmed the city’s streets to the end, despite a biting wind and cold rain.

 

Argentina's Vice President and President of the Senate Gabriela Michetti listens as lawmakers meet to debate and vote on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires
Argentina’s Vice President and President of the Senate Gabriela Michetti listens as lawmakers meet to debate and vote on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

 

Many had camped in front of Argentina’s National Congress since Wednesday night.

“I’m still optimistic. It didn’t pass today, but it will pass tomorrow, it will pass the next day,” said abortion rights supporter Natalia Carol, 23. “This is not over.”

 

Abortion rights activists gather as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires
Abortion rights activists holds a sign during a gathering as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 8, 2018. The writing on the sign reads “Legal abortion now.” REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

 

Uruguay and Cuba are the only Latin American countries that now have broadly legalized abortion.

In Brazil, the Supreme Court is set to consider whether current law, which allows terminating pregnancies only in cases of rape, fetal deformation or when the mother’s life is in danger, is unconstitutional.

 

Abortion-rights activists gather as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires
Abortion-rights activists gather as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Martin Acosta

 

But passing a pro-abortion law will face hurdles in Brazil’s increasingly conservative Congress, with a growing Evangelical Christian caucus that is staunchly opposed.

Women’s rights advocates, however, hope that a more liberal judiciary in Brazil will at least decriminalize abortion to help avoid deaths from botched terminations in a country where hundreds of thousands of women resort to clandestine clinics each year.

 

Anti-abortion rights activists celebrate lawmakers voted against a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires
Anti-abortion rights activists celebrate lawmakers voted against a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

 

Ahead of the Senate vote in Argentina, President Mauricio Macri called the debate “a win for democracy.” Macri said he was personally against abortion, but would sign the bill if it passed.

Argentina’s abortion rights movement, backed by feminist groups galvanized in recent years to stop violence against women, argued that the bill would end unregulated abortions that government data show as the leading cause of maternal deaths.

 

Lawmakers meet to debate and vote on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires
Lawmakers meet to debate and vote on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

 

There are at least 350,000 illegal abortions in Argentina every year, the Ministry of Health estimates, though international human rights groups say the number may be higher.

The move to legalize abortion in Argentina is a “public health and human rights imperative,” said New York-based Human Rights Watch.

“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. “We will be there at the next legislative opportunity.”

 

(Reporting by Scott Squires; Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Diane Craft and Clarence Fernandez)

 

Senator Silvina Garcia Larraburu and Senator Esteban Bullrich talk as lawmakers meet to debate and vote on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires
Senator Silvina Garcia Larraburu and Senator Esteban Bullrich talk as lawmakers meet to debate and vote on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

 

Senator Federico Pinedo and Senator Miguel Angel Pichetto talk as lawmakers meet to debate and vote on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires
Senator Federico Pinedo (front C) and Senator Miguel Angel Pichetto (front R) talk as lawmakers meet to debate and vote on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

 

Senator and former Argentine President Carlos Menem arrives with his daughter Zulema as lawmakers meet to debate and vote on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires
Senator and former Argentine President Carlos Menem arrives with his daughter Zulema as lawmakers meet to debate and vote on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

 

Senator Perotti speaks during a debate session on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires
Senator Omar Perotti speaks during a debate session on a bill that would legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

 

Anti-abortion rights activists celebrate lawmakers voted against a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires
Anti-abortion rights activists celebrate lawmakers voted against a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

 

A man is detained by a policeman during clashes outside the Congress after senators rejected a bill to legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires
A man is detained by a policeman during clashes outside the Congress after senators rejected a bill to legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, early August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

 

A woman argues with a policeman during clashes outside the Congress after senators rejected a bill to legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires
A woman argues with a policeman during clashes outside the Congress after senators rejected a bill to legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, early August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

 

A demonstrator throws a bottle at the police outside the Congress after senators rejected a bill to legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires
A demonstrator throws a bottle at the police outside the Congress after senators rejected a bill to legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, early August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

 

Policeman are seen in front of a barricade as pro-abortion rights activists light a fire, in Buenos Aires
Policeman are seen in front of a barricade as pro-abortion rights activists light a fire, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

 

An abortion rights activist attends a gathering as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires
An abortion rights activist, with the words “Legal abortion” written on her cheek, attends a gathering as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

 

Pro-abortion demonstrators take part in a protest in front of National Congress while an abortion bill is debated in Buenos Aires
Pro-abortion demonstrators take part in a protest in front of the National Congress while an abortion bill is debated in Buenos Aires, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Martin Acosta

 

Anti-abortion rights activists gather as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires
Anti-abortion rights activists gather as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

 

Anti-abortion rights activists celebrate lawmakers voted against a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires
Anti-abortion rights activists celebrate lawmakers voted against a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

 

Anti-abortion rights activists celebrate lawmakers voted against a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires
Anti-abortion rights activists celebrate lawmakers voted against a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian