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Argentina's Senate voted against legalizing elective abortion in the early hours of Thursday morning, dashing the hopes of pro-abortion rights advocates in the predominantly Catholic country, homeland of Pope Francis.

The bill had sought to legalize abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and would have seen Argentina join Uruguay and Cuba as the only countries in Latin America to fully decriminalize abortion.

The Senate in predominately Roman Catholic Argentina has rejected a law that would have legalized abortion, rebuffing a grass-roots abortion-rights movement.

The legalization bill can not be debated again until 2019, although some advocates of removing abortion restrictions have suggested promoting a bill for decriminalization as an alternative, according to Crux.

The result was welcomed by fireworks and shouts of joy among anti-abortion activists gathered outside of Congress.

Indeed, conservative President Mauricio Macri, who had promised to sign the legislation if it passed Congress even though he opposes abortion, said after the Senate's vote that the debate will continue.

Despite false warnings to the contrary, no woman or medical professional is in prison for practicing abortion in Argentina, despite its illegal status.

Speaking to a delegation of the Forum of Family Associations at the Vatican, Francis denounced today's abortion culture and urged his hearers to accept human life as it comes from the hand of God. "Caring for life is the first human right and the duty of the State".

The move to legalize abortion in Argentina is a "public health and human rights imperative", said New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Currently, abortion is allowed in Argentina in only three cases, similar to most of Latin America: rape, a threat to the mother's life or if the fetus is disabled. In June, however, he likened abortions meant to prevent birth defects to the Nazi eugenics program.

Sadness turned to anger as some demonstrators hurled bottles outside the Palace of the Argentine National Congress in Buenos Aires. "We have to go to the causes of abortion and not abortion as a solution".

His sentiments were shared by 21-year-old Camila Sforza, who said she remained hopeful despite the setback.

"Just because the bill got shot down, it will not stop the movement", said Paula Avila-Guillen, a director of Women's Equality Center, an abortion rights advocacy group. Chile had been the last country in South America to ban abortion in all cases, though several nations in Central America still have absolute prohibitions. Feminists and other groups led even larger demonstrations in support of the measure, often wearing green that symbolizes the pro-abortion movement, or red cloaks and white bonnets like the characters from the novel-turned-TV series "The Handmaid's Tale".

It is also legal in Mexico City.


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