Argentine Senate begins debate on historic abortion law

Argentine Senate begins debate on historic abortion law

Despite the outcome of the Thursday vote - which came shortly after Ireland passed a major referendum legalizing abortion - activists told CNN that they will continue to push the legislation with the hopes that it will one day pass. A vote could come Wednesday or early Thursday.

Argentina now allows abortion only in cases of rape or risks to a woman's health and abortion rights activists say 3,000 women have died of illegal abortions since 1983. The Health Ministry estimated in 2016 that the country sees as many as half a million clandestine abortions each year, with dozens of women dying as a result.

"What this vote showed is that Argentina is still a country that represents family values", anti-abortion activist Victoria Osuna told Reuters.

Miguel Angel Pichetto, a Peronist opposition leader in the Senate, said pro-abortion campaigners would not be giving up.

She added that the Senate had "therefore made a decision to agree on a system which forces women, girls and others who can become pregnant to undergo clandestine and unsafe abortions".

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. Feminist groups, in turn, have held protests, often wearing green that symbolizes their movement or outfits based on author Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale".

Soros also funds the pro-abortion Human Rights Watch (HRW), which has worked to pressure pro-life countries to legalize abortion.

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The proposal can not be brought up for debate until next year, but Argentina's Senate is set to discuss abortion again late this month when it considers reforms to the country's penal code, reported La Nación.

Abortion rights supporters wore green scarves while anti-abortion activists donned baby blue.

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

According to an official tally, 38 senators voted against the measure to legalise the termination of a foetus during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, 31 were in favour, while two abstained. There are three exceptions: if a woman is raped, pregnancy puts her life in danger, or the fetus is brain-dead.

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. Had the proposal been adopted, Argentina would have become the largest Latin American nation to legalize abortion, after Cuba.

Small groups rallied in other countries across the region to voice support for the Argentine abortion measure, including in Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru.

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