Argentina’s senate has rejected a bill to legalise elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Lawmakers debated for more than 15 hours and voted 31 in favour to 38 against, despite the fact opinion polls showed the legal abortion bill had strong public support
Pressure from the Catholic church prevented its approval, according to female activists who supported the bill. Argentina is the homeland of Pope Francis.
“The church put pressure on senators to vote against the bill,” said Ana Correa, an original member of the #NiUnaMenos (“Not one woman less”) feminist movement that supported the bill.
The lower house had already passed the measure and President Mauricio Macri had said he would sign it.
Rejection of the bill means that abortion remains legal only in the case of rape and danger to the life of the woman.
Mariela Belski, Argentina’s Amnesty International director, said:
“A survey we did this year showed 60% support for an abortion law.”
Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women, braved a cold and rainy night to stand vigil outside Congress on Wednesday while the votes were counted inside.
Despite the final result of the vote, many women said they believed Argentina would have legal abortion eventually.
“I’m still optimistic. It didn’t pass today, but it will pass tomorrow, it will pass the next day,” said abortion rights supporter Natalia Carol, 23. “This is not over.”
Journalist Silvina Márquez, who joined the crowd outside Congress early in the afternoon, said:
“We might not have a law today, but it is going to happen. Argentina is not going back to this, it is important for the women, especially for the young women. So sooner or later we’ll have an abortion law.”
“What this vote showed is that Argentina is still a country that represents family values,” anti-abortion activist Victoria Osuna, 32, told Reuters.
A nearby group of secondary school students, megaphone in hand, chanted:
“Beware, beware, machistas [chaunvinists] beware, all Latin America will be feminist.”