ARGENTINA’s senate was accused of condemning women to death yesterday by narrowly rejected a proposed law that would have legalised abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
After 16 hours of debate, 38 senators voted against the Bill, with 31 in favour. Legislators must now wait until next year to make a resubmission.
Most of the opponents – 24 out of 38 – were men.
Rival groups of pro-life and pro-choice demonstrators rallied outside parliament as the voting took place. Campaigners in favour of the legislation vowed not to give up as protests erupted after the decision.
Campaigner Jimena Del Potro said that, although they knew the Bill wouldn't pass, they wanted to be there to "make their presence felt.
"We will no longer be silent and we won’t let them win," she said.
Abortion is only allowed in Argentina, which has a largely Roman Catholic population, in cases of rape or if the mother's health is in danger from the pregnancy continuing.
In 2016, 43 women died after undergoing illegal abortions, which Health Minister Adolfo Rubinstein says are estimated to total 354,000 a year.
Drugs are used to terminate pregnancies by women who can afford them, while poorer ones resort to more dangerous makeshift methods.
In support for legislative change, Norma Durango of the opposition Peronist party said: “This law doesn’t obligate, nor does it recommend anyone have an abortion. The only thing this law does is defend the right to choose.”
A push for such legislation was made in 2015 after a pregnant 14-year-old girl was murdered by her boyfriend. Her mother said the teenage boy's family did not want her to have the baby.
Former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who had previously refused to back the legalisation, voiced support for the Bill, saying her mind had been changed by the thousands of people who took to the streets.
Across Latin America, only Uruguay, Cuba, Guyana and Mexico City allow abortions. In El Salvador, women can even be jailed for miscarrying.
Argentina began to move away from a close church-state in 2010, when it became the first country in the region to allow equal marriage following pressure from similar organised protests.
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