Argentine Senate votes against decriminalising abortion

The Argentine Senate has voted against a bill to decriminalise abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Senators voted 38-31 against the bill.

In Argentina, abortion is allowed only in cases of rape and in risks to a woman’s health.

Thousands of women, most of them poor, are hospitalised each year for complications linked to unsafe abortions.

Support for decriminalising abortion drew stronger support in Buenos Aires, the capital, than in the more conservative provinces. Observers attribute that difference to the bill being voted down in the Senate, as it includes more representation from outlying areas.

At the same time as the vote was being held, Catholics celebrated the Eucharist in a “Mass for Life”, while women and supporters of decriminalisation filled the streets outside the Congress.

Backers of the measure said legalising abortion would save the lives of many women.

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.

Opposing the bill, the Catholic Church and other groups said it violated Argentinian law, which guarantees life from the moment of conception.

“Everyone had time to express their viewpoints and be heard by legislators in a healthy democratic exercise. But the only ones that didn’t have an opportunity to make themselves heard are the human beings that struggled to be born,” Cardinal Mario Poli said in his homily at the mass for Life.

“We have done little to accompany the women when they find themselves in tough situations, particularly when (the pregnancy is) the result of rape or situations of extreme poverty,” he said.

In a statement after the vote, the Argentinian bishops’ conference said the Senate debate opened an opportunity for dialogue and a chance to focus more on social ministry, and that it was time to address the “new divisions developing between us … through a renewed exercise of dialogue.”

“We are facing great pastoral challenges to speak more clearly on the value of life,” they said.


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