Legal abortion bill rejected in Argentina

Thousands of pro-life demonstrators brought Buenos Aires to a standstill on August 4

In recent years, Argentina has been at the forefront of social movements in the region. She kept the illegal procedure a secret for years, fearful of what the repercussions might be.

The move was also condemned by Amnesty International, which said Argentina had squandered an historic opportunity.

Many women in Argentina use misoprostol to end first-trimester pregnancies.

An abortion-rights activist reacts outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires, on Thursday to news that the Senate voted to reject a bill that would have legalized abortion.

After months of heated debate, Argentine senators voted down a bill Thursday that would have legalized abortion, defying local advocates, worldwide groups and a recent trend of predominantly Catholic nations seeking to make abortions more accessible.

Currently, women in the country are allowed to have an abortion only if the pregnancy is threatening the mother's life, or if it was conceived through rape.

The bill narrowly passed through Argentina's lower house in June and President Mauricio Macri said he wouldn't veto it if it reached his desk.

"The Argentine lawmakers chose today to turn their backs on hundreds of thousands of women and girls who have been fighting for their sexual and reproductive rights".

Supporters of the bill held protests for months under the banner of Ni Una Menos, a coalition of women's rights groups.

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But the bill faces stiff opposition.

Argentina is a predominantly Catholic country and is also the homeland of Pope Francis.

Opponents of the bill celebrated the decision on the streets outside Congress with fireworks as they waved Argentine flags. The Catholic Church plans to hold a "Mass for Life" in the capital Wednesday as senators debate the bill. "They don't have the support of the majority of the country".

Under current Argentine law, abortion is allowed only in cases of rape or a risk to a woman's health. According to the New York Times, Argentina's Health Minister Adolfo Rubinstein estimates more than 350,000 "clandestine abortions" happen each year.

If the bill does fail, lawmakers must wait a year to resubmit the legislation.

Cecilia Ousset, a gynecologist from Tucumán, Argentina, published an open letter on Facebook in support of decriminalizing abortion titled "I'm not neutral". The claim is belied by the health ministry's own statistics, which showed that in 2016 about seven times as many women died in childbirth as compared to abortion.

"Fortunately, women are gaining spaces and we've been learning from those spaces that they're demanding", said Gustavo Bayley, a tattoo artist wearing the abortion movement's green handkerchief on his arm. "They arrived terrified, knowing that they could go to jail". "We're deciding abortion in a hospital, or illegal abortion, with a clothes hanger, or anything else that puts a woman in a humiliating, degrading situation - a real torture", she said.

"The criminalization of abortion is an extreme form of violence against women. Women abort according to their economic options, but the ones with few or nearly no resources are the ones who die".

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