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Argentine Senate rejects historic abortion law

09 August 2018

Argentine senators voted against legalizing abortion in all cases on Thursday, just weeks after the bill was passed by the lower house of Congress in June by the narrowest of margins.

"We are happy because it is a celebration of democracy, the triumph of both lives", said Ayelen Caffarena, echoing the campaign's slogan, "save both lives", a reference to the mother as well as the unborn child.

Pro-abortion campaigners have for years tried to get bills passed, but their efforts gained new impetus when President Mauricio Macri - who himself opposes abortion - called on Congress to consider it.

Argentina now allows abortion only in cases of rape or risks to a woman's health, and activists say 3,000 women have died of illegal abortions since 1983.

The Senate in predominately Roman Catholic Argentina has rejected a law that would have legalized abortion, rebuffing a grass-roots abortion-rights movement.

"There was talk of a green square and a light blue square".

Anti-abortion supporters in Argentina celebrated on Wednesday night after the Senate rejected a bill that would have legalised terminations in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

But the city's archbishop, Cardinal Mario Poli, appeared to speak for many when he told churchgoers: "It's not about religious beliefs but about a humanitarian reason. It doesn't reduce abortions - it just makes them unsafe", said Amnesty International secretary general Salil Shetty in an interview with the progressive UK Guardian last April.

For many of them, the methods used to induce an abortion include using an IV tube with a sharp wire clothes hanger or a knitting needle to try to break the amniotic sac inside womb.

Hundreds of doctors have staged anti-abortion protests, in one case laying their white medical coats on the ground outside the presidential palace.

Will Argentina legalize abortion?

Rallies took place around the world in front of Argentine diplomatic missions, mainly in support of the bill.

In Brazil, which is home to the world's largest population of Catholics and fast-growing evangelical faiths, abortion carries a punishment of up to three years in prison. 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. Uruguay and Cuba are the only countries in the region to have fully decriminalized abortion. "Sooner rather than later, women will have the decision they need, sooner rather than later we will win this debate", he said in his closing speech.

Argentine Senate rejects historic abortion law