Abortion activists vow to press fight despite Argentina loss

Supporters for decriminalizing abortion in Argentina gather as lawmakers debate the issue in Buenos Aires

Supporters for decriminalizing abortion in Argentina gather as lawmakers debate the issue in Buenos Aires Credit AP

Argentina's Senate narrowly rejected a bill legalizing abortion on Thursday.

Argentina's senate has rejected a bill which would have legalised abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Opponents of the bill celebrated the decision on the streets outside Congress with fireworks as they waved Argentine flags.

That dealt a hammer blow to the Catholic Church, which is as revered in Ireland as it is in Argentina.

Natalia Carol, a 23-year-old supporter of legalized abortion, said she is "still optimistic".

An activist in favour of the legalisation of abortion reacts outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires.

The issue has divided the homeland of Pope Francis.

The lower house of Congress has already passed the measure and Argentine President Mauricio Macri says he will sign it if approved by the Senate.

Despite false warnings to the contrary, no woman or medical professional is in prison for practicing abortion in Argentina, despite its illegal status. Argentine law guarantees life from the moment of conception.

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Outraged by lawmakers' rejection of a bill that would have legalized abortion Wednesday night, women's rights advocates in Argentina clashed with police, who wore riot gear and sprayed tear gas at protesters.

US -based organizations such as Live Action, Human Defense Initiative and the National Right to Life Committee expressed their opposition to the bill as well. Current laws allow abortion only in cases of rape and when the mother's health is at risk.

"There are positive points that have come out of this, first of all, that even when there are differing ways of thinking, there's a square in peace right now, with thousands of people defending their convictions", said Buenos Aires provincial Gov. Maria Eugenia Vidal, who was against the measure. But in June, he said getting an abortion to avoid birth defects is similar to Nazi eugenics programmes.

Tensions ran high during the legislative debate - which lasted well into the morning - with some members of the lower chamber being barred from the Argentine Senate and the vice president hurling insults at a senator. Moreover, efforts to present abortion as a health emergency, calling clandestine abortions the primary cause of maternal death in the country, statistics show that this claim is simply false.

Even after the defeat, activists said they would continue to push for the bill, according to CNN. "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 alleged "human rights" organization Amnesty International has been hammering Argentina to repeal its constitutional provision protecting preborn babies from abortion. Only in the Central American trio of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua does it remain totally banned.

Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico and Uruguay permit early-term elective abortions, as does Mexico City.

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