A divisive social debate in Argentina continued this week with the nation’s lawmakers voting down a proposal that would have made abortion legal as an elective procedure.
According to The Associated Press, the narrow 38-31 vote in the country’s Senate came after legislators in the lower house approved a measure that would legalize abortions and President Mauricio Macri, a conservative, said he would sign the bill into law if it reached his desk.
As it stands, abortions are generally legal in Argentina only in the case of rape or risk to the mother’s life.
Demonstrators advocating for the restrictions to remain in place celebrated the victory Thursday as pro-abortion groups vowed to continue pushing for change.
Here are some scenes from the celebrations.
Those on both sides of the issue gathered outside of the congressional building as senators deliberated for about 15 hours prior to announcing the vote.
Argentine officials are expected to decriminalize abortion, though that move would not go as far as legalizing the practice.
A high Catholic population in the nation, which was also the birthplace of Pope Francis, has led to significant and sustained opposition to legalization efforts.
Groups opposed to abortion gathered ahead of this week’s Senate vote at the Metropolitan Cathedral for a “Mass for Life” on Wednesday.
At the Mass, according to the AP, the current leader of the Catholic Church in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Mario Poli, told his congregation what is at stake in the fight against abortion.
“It’s not about religious beliefs but about a humanitarian reason,” he said. “Caring for life is the first human right and the duty of the state.”
On the other side of the debate, Argentine Sen. Magdalena Odarda spoke for those who say abortions will occur regardless of whether the procedure is legal.
“We’re not deciding abortion yes or no,” the Rio Negro lawmaker said.
“We’re deciding abortion in a hospital, or illegal abortion, with a clothes hanger or anything else that puts a woman in a humiliating, degrading situation — a real torture.”
Argentina is the latest South American country to publicly wrestle with the divisive issue. Chile stands alone in banning all abortions under any circumstances.
Several Central American countries also enforce total prohibitions on the procedure.
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