Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Argentina's Senate rejects bill to legalise abortion

Argentina's Senate rejects bill to legalise abortion

Agustin Marcarian / Reuters Anti-abortion rights activists gathered in Buenos Aires as lawmakers voted on the bill.

An abortion-rights activist reacts outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires, on Thursday to news that the Senate voted to reject a bill that would have legalized abortion.

A handful of demonstrators started fires and threw stones as they clashed with riot police.

In Chile, the constitutional Court a year ago 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.

The vote in Argentina came almost two months after Argentina's Chamber of Deputies narrowly approved the measure and President Mauricio Macri said that despite his personal opposition to abortion, he was prepared to sign it. But despite that, an estimated half a million women have illegal terminations every year.

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. Amnesty International has told Argentine legislators that "the world is watching".

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

Women's movements across South America have been pushing against decades-old abortion prohibitions.

Senators in Argentina are debating whether or not to legalize the abortion in all cases up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. There are three exceptions: if a woman is raped, pregnancy puts her life in danger, or the fetus is brain-dead.

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. Uruguay and Cuba are the only Latin American countries with laws that broadly allow abortion, while Brazil's Supreme Court is in the process of deciding whether to decriminalize abortion in that country.

"It is not a question of beliefs, but of a problem that exists", Fernandez said.

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