Lawmakers in Argentina’s Senate debated for more than 15 hours and voted 38-31 against the measure that would have legalized abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, on Thursday.
The decision could echo across Latin America, where the Roman Catholic Church has lost influence and moral authority due to secularization. After the vote, small groups of protesters clashed with police, throwing firebombs and setting up flaming barricades. Police officers responded with tear gas. In Argentina, abortion is only allowed in cases of rape and risks to a woman’s health. Thousands of women, most of them poor, are hospitalized each year for complications linked due to unsafe abortions. 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 to media. "I'm still optimistic. It didn't pass today, but it will pass tomorrow, it will pass the next day," said a woman, abortion rights supporter. Uruguay and Cuba are the only Latin American countries that now have broadly legalized abortion. Ahead of the Senate vote in Argentina, President Mauricio Macri called the debate "a win for democracy." Macri said he was personally against abortion. "Just because the bill got shot down, it will not stop the movement," said Paula Avila-Guillen, a director of Women's Equality Center.