Legal abortion bill rejected in Argentina

A child holds up a banner that reads in Spanish

A child holds up a banner that reads in Spanish"Let's save two lives during a demonstration against reform

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.

Argentina's Senate rejected a bill that would have legalised elective abortion for pregnancies of up to 14 weeks. Per the New York Times, "under current Argentine law, in place since 1921, abortion is legal only in cases of rape or if the pregnancy poses a risk to the woman's health".

After a marathon debate, 38 senators voted against it and 31 in favour. In 2010, HRW claimed that Argentina's abortion ban violated worldwide treaties, even though none of the cited treaties mention abortions.

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

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

Meanwhile, at the city's Metropolitan Cathedral, a "mass for life" was held in support of keeping laws unchanged. According to Argentina's Ministry of Health, at least 350,000 illegal abortions are carried out in the country each year.

Catholic and evangelical groups protested abortion with the slogan, "Argentina, filicide (killing one's children) will be your ruin".

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

"We're not deciding abortion yes or no".

Despite the strict abortion ban, hundreds of thousands of women in Argentina are still having abortions.

"This is just the beginning - our movement will continue till we get the right to abortion", she said.

IWHC focuses its work in the UN, training worldwide abortion activists in the art of lobbying and preparing activists from a number of nations, including Argentina.

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. There are three exceptions: if a woman is raped, pregnancy puts her life in danger, or the fetus is brain-dead. Only in the Central American trio of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua does it remain totally banned.

"It is not a question of beliefs, but of a problem that exists", Fernandez said.

Small groups rallied in other countries across the region to voice support for the Argentine abortion measure, including in Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru.

"We need to make an effort to resolve this", she said.

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