Fri, Aug 10, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Argentina rejects abortion measure

REGIONAL DEBATE:The Brazilian Supreme Court is set to rule on whether the nation’s current law that allows abortions only in extreme cases is unconstitutional


Anti-abortion advocates celebrate yesterday in Buenos Aires after the Argentine Senate rejected a bill that would have legalized abortion.

Photo: Reuters

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

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

Families and clergy in blue bandanas gathered outside the congressional palace as the result came in just before 3am, 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 said.

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.

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,” abortion rights supporter Natalia Carol said. “This is not over.”

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

The Brazilian Supreme Court on Friday last week began deliberating 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.

Passing a pro-abortion law is to face hurdles in Brazil’s increasingly conservative Congress, with a growing evangelical Christian caucus that is staunchly opposed.

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

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

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

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

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

“Just because the bill got shot down, it will not stop the movement,” said Paula Avila-Guillen, a director of the Women’s Equality Center, an abortion rights advocacy group. “We will be there at the next legislative opportunity.”

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