Sunday, 20 January, 2019

'This is not over': Argentina's Senate rejects bill to legalize abortion

A child holds up a banner that reads in Spanish A child holds up a banner that reads in Spanish"Let's save two lives during a demonstration against reform Credit AGUSTIN MARCARIAN REUTERS
Melinda Barton | 09 August, 2018, 23:00

The vote capped months of heated debate in the largely Catholic country and a massive rally the night of the vote which saw close to a million pro-abortion rights supporters gather outside the legislature according to the Buenos Aires daily La Nación.

Argentina's senate has rejected a bill which would have legalised abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Many women in Argentina use misoprostol to end first-trimester pregnancies.

Argentina now allows the procedure only in cases of rape or risks to a woman's health.

Amnesty International, a London-based human rights group, ran a full-page advertisement in the international edition of the New York Times on Tuesday depicting a clothes hanger to symbolize clandestine, unsafe abortions. The bill's Thursday rejection, activists tell CNN, represents a "huge step backward" for the country.

There are at least 350,000 illegal abortions in Argentina every year, the Ministry of Health estimates, though global human rights groups say the number may be higher.

In 2016, the organization sent 32 activists from Argentina and other nations to participate in the 60th UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Speaking to a delegation of the Forum of Family Associations at the Vatican, Francis denounced today's abortion culture and urged his hearers to accept human life as it comes from the hand of God.

Hundreds of doctors who opposed the bill had laid their white medical coats outside the presidential palace, while the pro-choice movement - in their signature green - held larger demonstrations and drew support from the likes of The Handmaid's Tale author Margaret Atwood and actress Susan Sarandon.

Margaret Atwood, author of "The Handmaid's Tale", also brought global attention to the debate with an op-ed likening the country's anti-abortion laws to slavery.

Argentina is an overwhelmingly Catholic country.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, said that Argentina had a "historic opportunity" to protect the rights of women.

Global 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.

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.

In neighboring Chile, the Constitutional Court past year 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.

His sentiments were shared by 21-year-old Camila Sforza, who said she remained hopeful despite the setback.

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