Argentina’s Senate Votes Down Bill to Legalize Abortion

© DELFINA LINARES/ARGENTINE SENATE / ASSOCIATED PRESS Crowds gather in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the legislature debates the decriminalization of abortion on August 8, 2018.

© DELFINA LINARES/ARGENTINE SENATE / ASSOCIATED PRESS
Crowds gather in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the legislature debates the decriminalization of abortion on August 8, 2018.

On August 9, Argentina’s Senate rejected a bill that would have legalized elective abortion within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy by a vote of 38–31. Despite the measure passing in the lower house of Congress in June and having large support from growing women’s rights movements in the country, the institutional structure of Argentina’s Senate ultimately proved fatal for the proposed legislation. While the overall population was split on the issue roughly down the middle, the majority of the Senate represents the northern and Cuyo regions where around a quarter of the country’s population reside. The Argentine Catholic hierarchy vociferously lobbied against the measure in sermons and public statements nationwide, but devoted special attention to senators from these regions. The bishop of Tucumán province, in one instance, took time during an April Mass to call on each of the province’s representatives by name to reject the proposed legislation. The hierarchy’s efforts culminated in a “Mass for Life” held at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral on the eve of the vote. Argentina currently only waives the criminal penalty for abortion if there is a risk to the life or health of the woman, or in cases of rape. Clandestine abortions are the leading cause of maternal mortality in Argentina today.

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