Argentina’s Senate has rejected a proposed bill to legalise abortion, after a prolonged debate and much division in the Latin American country.
The vote in the upper house of Congress came nearly two months after lawmakers in the lower house narrowly approved the measure. Senators voted by 38 to 31 against it, with two abstentions.
The move would have significantly eased Argentina’s abortion laws, allowing pregancies to be terminated up until 14 weeks. Currently the country only allows abortion in cases of rape or where the mother’s health is in danger.
The rejection is not expected to deter pro-abortion campaigners. The bill has stirred passions and brought widespread protests in Argentina on both sides of the debate.
Human Rights Watch estimates that some half a million abortions take place every year in Argentina, representing 40 percent of all pregnancies. It says the consequences of illegal and unsafe abortions make up the leading cause of maternal mortality in the country.
In its report on Argentina last year, Amnesty International said that despite a Supreme Court ruling from 2012, access to legal abortions was often restricted.
“Abortions are done and thousands of women die clandestinely. The debate today is: legal or illegal,” Senator Norma Durango, a supporter of the bill, said during the debate in Congress. “The law does not obligate or encourage anyone to have an abortion; it defends the right to choose.”
However, firm opposition to the measure among many senators means that its rejection comes as no surprise. Since its approval in the Chamber of Deputies, a campaign against it has grown.
Argentina is the home country of Pope Francis, a fervent opponent of abortion. Commenting in June, he compared the termination of pregnancies in some circumstances with the Nazi-era eugenics programme, saying “today, we do the same thing but with white gloves”.