Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Argentine senate rejects legalising elective abortion

Published:Thursday | August 9, 2018 | 3:52 PM
Demonstrators against decriminalising abortion celebrate outside Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, August 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Luisa Balaguer)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s Senate on Thursday rejected a bill to legalise elective abortion, a defeat for a grassroots movement that came closer than ever to achieving the decriminalisation of the procedure in the homeland of Pope Francis.

Lawmakers debated for more than 15 hours before voting 38-31 against the measure that would have allowed abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The decision could echo across Latin America, where anti-abortion forces remain strong even if the Roman Catholic Church has lost influence due to secularisation and an avalanche of sex abuse scandals.

For long hours, thousands of supporters wearing green handkerchiefs that represent the effort to legalise abortion and opponents wearing light blue braved the heavy rain and cold temperatures in Argentina’s winter to watch the debate on large screens set up outside Congress.

The demonstrations were largely peaceful, but after the vote, small groups of protesters clashed with police, throwing firebombs and setting up flaming barricades.

Police officers responded with tear gas.

Pushed by a wave of demonstrations by women’s groups, the lower house had already passed the measure and conservative President Mauricio Macri had said that he would sign it, even though he is anti-abortion.

After the decision, Macri said that the debate would continue.

The government is also expected to include a measure in the penal code that would decriminalise abortion, although it would not legalise the practice.

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