On Thursday, Argentina’s Senate voted 38 to 31 against a bill that would legalize elective abortions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The controversial bill has ignited a debate amongst lawmakers and the public in a country that is predominantly Catholic and is also the homeland of Pope Francis.
The bill would have allowed girls as young as 13 to get abortions within the first 14 weeks of being pregnant. It also mandated that the procedure would have been carried out within five days of the woman’s request.
When the vote was announced, fireworks went off as hundreds of thousands of pro-life demonstrators celebrated while waving Argentine flags around the National Congress in Buenos Aires.
“We’re convinced this isn’t the right path,” said Inés Brizuela, a ruling-party senator who opposed the bill. “We can’t implement as a public health policy a practice that everyone agrees is not good. It is harmful because it ends the life of another being.”
A small number of pro-abortion rights protestors participated in a violent riot by lighting fires and throwing rocks and bottles at police.
Argentina’s current law only allows for abortion when a pregnant woman has been raped or when a women’s health is at risk.
“Although the bill failed, abortion law in Argentina could still change. Most senators rejected the measure as too broad but left the door open to future versions. The administration of President Mauricio Macri is also considering a measure that would decriminalize abortion in the penal code, so that women who have one would not face the threat of jail time, according to the Argentine news outlet Clarin,” writes The Washington Post.
Advocates for legalizing abortion in the country expressed their disappointment in the vote.
“I thought the senators were going to listen to the people,” said Sol Haro, a 19-year-old student. We are going to keep on fighting for its approval.”
Some claim that the decision will only lead to more illegally and unsafe abortion procedures. It’s been estimated that 500,000 illegal abortions occur in Argentina each year.
“The abortions WILL KEEP HAPPENING, the women will continue to die in clandestine abortions and your Neanderthal position of ‘saving two lives’ in a comfortable social inequality will continue without saving ANY LIFE,” posted Veronica Diaz on Instagram.
Pro-choice advocates argue that abortion gives the power back to women and by not being given this option, women continue to have fewer rights and less control over their bodies.
“Women have never had their rights given to them,” said María Magdalena Odarda, a senator who supported the bill. “The fight will continue.”
Since Ireland recently overturn its ban on abortion, the Catholic church increased it’s campaigning efforts in Argentina to make sure this bill did not pass.
“In my opinion, life starts from conception,“ said Fernando Bertolani, a psychiatrist in Buenos Aires, a pro-life advocate. ”We have to protect it.”
Author’s note: The Catholic Church has too much clout in Argentina for this bill to pass.