Argentina's Senate rejects proposed bill to legalize abortion

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

After more than 15 hours of debate, a total of 38 senators voted against the abortion bill while 31 voted in favor, in spite of pressures from a wealthy abortion cabal with powerful backing from the mainstream media. The Senate also could modify the bill and return it to the lower house.

"This is just the beginning - our movement will continue till we get the right to abortion", she said. "We will be there at the next legislative opportunity".

"What this vote showed is that Argentina is still a country that represents family values", anti-abortion activist Victoria Osuna, 32, told Reuters. Currently, abortion in the South American nation is only allowed in cases of rape or if it endangers the mother's health.

Fireworks and shouts of joy erupted among anti-abortion activists camped outside Congress, while pro-choice campaigners, many decked in the green scarves that had come to symbolize their movement, were downcast.

Natalia Carol, a 23-year-old supporter of legalized abortion, said she is "still optimistic". "This is not over".

Small groups rallied in other countries across the region to voice support for the Argentine abortion measure, including in Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru.

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In neighboring Chile, the Constitutional Court a year ago upheld a measure that would end that country's absolute ban on abortions, permitting abortions when a woman's life is in danger, when a fetus is not viable and in cases of rape.

While abortion-rights campaigners seemed to have a chance of success a few weeks ago, leaders of the Catholic Church spoke out against abortion, leading to senators from conservative provinces to vote against it, reported The New York Times. The bill would have expanded abortion rights beyond current laws that allow it only in cases of rape or health risks to a mother.

Soon after, anti-abortion president Mauricio Macri told lawmakers this year that they could reconsider the matter. "The human-rights group says that over the past 30 years, complications from risky abortions have accounted for a third of the maternal deaths in Argentina".

There are at least 350,000 illegal abortions in Argentina every year, the Ministry of Health estimates, though worldwide human rights groups say the number may be higher. Argentina's lower house - the Chamber of Deputies - approved the bill legalizing abortion in June, and on Wednesday, the country's Senate took up the issue.

"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", said Mariela Belski, the group's executive director for Argentina.

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