Argentina's Senate Rejects Legalizing Abortion, Dashing Hopes Of Rights Advocates

A child holds up a banner that reads in Spanish

The move to legalize abortion in Argentina is a "public health and human rights imperative", said New York-based Human Rights Watch.

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.

Pro-choice activists gather around a bonfire to keep warm as celebratory fireworks go off in the distance from a gathering of pro-life activists, as they all wait outside Congress for lawmakers to vote on an abortion bill in Buenos Aires, Argentina, early Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018.

The Senate voted 38 to 31 against the proposed measure, which would have legalized a woman's right to seek an abortion into the 14th week of pregnancy.

Many women, a lot of them poor, have unsafe and degrading abortions every year - and activists estimate 3,000 have died since 1983.

In Chile, the constitutional Court previous year upheld legislation ending the Andean nation's absolute ban on abortions, permitting the procedure when a woman's life is in danger, when a fetus is not viable and in cases of rape.

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"It's not about religious beliefs but about a humanitarian reason", Cardinal Mario Poli, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, told churchgoers.

"The right to life is about to become the weakest of rights", said Fiad.

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

For months, hundreds of doctors in Argentina had staged anti-abortion protests, in one case laying their white medical coats on the ground outside the presidential palace. Amnesty International has told Argentine legislators that "the world is watching".

In Brazil, which is home to the world's largest population of Catholics and fast-growing evangelical faiths, abortion carries a punishment of up to three years in prison. Uruguay and Cuba are the only countries in the region to have fully decriminalized abortion.

In Brazil, the Supreme Court is set to consider 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.

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