Argentina's Senate rejects bill to legalize abortion

Anti-abortion activists carry a

Anti-abortion activists carry a"Yes To Life banner during a protest in Buenos Aires

Early Thursday morning, the Argentinian Senate shot down a bill that would have allowed women to have an abortion within the first 14 weeks of her pregnancy.

Worldwide human rights and women's groups have been closely following the vote, and figures such as US actress Susan Sarandon and "The Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood supported the pro-abortion cause in Argentina.

Argentina's senators on Thursday voted against legalizing abortion in the homeland of Pope Francis, dashing the hopes of women's rights groups after the bill was approved by the legislature's lower house months earlier.

"All that this decision does is perpetuate the circle of violence which women, girls and others who can become pregnant are forced into". Current laws allow abortion only in cases of rape and when the mother's health is at risk.

"Abortion is the ultimate red line for the church", Celia Szusterman, trustee of the United Kingdom board of Pro-Mujer and director of the Latin America program at the Institute for Statecraft, told CNN. "It is an unforgiveable step backwards", said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

In the Senate it is widely expected to fall short of the votes needed to pass, with 37 of the 72 senators said to be ready to say no despite a massive social campaign to have it adopted.

Supporters of the bill rallied across the region Wednesday, in Chile, Uruguay, Mexico and Peru, as well as across the Atlantic, in Spain. "It's clear that, for the Pope, it would be a personal humiliation if his home country, Argentina, votes in favor of decriminalization".

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The bill had originally been passed by Congress' lower house by a narrow margin in June. The Archbishop of Buenos Aires appealed to Senators not to interrupt "the honorable and praiseworthy tradition of legislating for the common good and for a culture of life, protecting the weakest and most defenseless, who are waiting to participate in history".

Women in over 30 countries, in Latin America and around the world, have organized vigils to support the demand for safe abortions in Argentina.

"My record was 18 patients in one day, more patients with complications due to abortions in precarious conditions rather than births", Ousset, who is Catholic, told CNN.

On one side plaza stood 24-year-old Veronica Del Vasto, dressed in green, the color representing the pro-abortion movement. Argentine law guarantees life from the moment of conception. Activists estimated 3,030 women have died of illegal abortions since 1983 and framed the issue as a health matter. Human rights groups have also expressed their support and urged Argentine legislators to approve the bill and protect women's right to life and reproductive rights.

"It was the thousands of young women who went out to the streets who made me change my opinion", she told the Senate Wednesday.

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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