Argentina’s Senate Rejects Abortion Bill After Harrowing Debate

A pro-choice activist holds her face after lawmakers voted against a bill that would have legalized elective abortion.
Natacha Pisarenko / AP Images

After a more than 16-hour debate, Argentina’s Senate has rejected legislation to legalize abortion for women up to 14 weeks pregnant, reports the BBC. The final verdict was 38 votes against the bill to 31 votes for it.

Currently, Argentina allows abortion in cases of rape or for women facing serious health problems if they pursue a pregnancy. The defeat of the bill means lawmakers will be forced to wait another year to try again.

Since the verdict was announced, pro-choice campaigners have revolted against the rejection of the bill, starting fires and throwing missiles at police in Buenos Aires.

One anti-abortion activist spoke out about their joy after hearing the decision, writes the BBC.

“It’s a joy to see that our society can be based on such an important principle as the defence of the most defenceless, the child.”

After years of campaigning to legalize abortion, pro-choice campaigners have been met time and again with resistance from the mostly Roman Catholic population of Argentina. Additionally, the country’s Senate leans toward the right, making it very difficult for a bill of its kind to gain much traction. The vote was also evenly split among the 30 women present in the chamber.

Women in support of decriminalizing abortion protest in the rain outside Congress where lawmakers are debating the issue in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  Natacha Pisarenko / AP Images

Pro-choice senators have faced threats and hateful messages due to their stance on the issue. For example, Senator Pedro Guastavino was told he had to “dodge crucifixes” by the Catholic Church.

Some of the senators who initially opposed the bill reported having their minds changed by the pro-choice activists. Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is now a senator and was set against abortion during her presidency, reported that she changed her mind this time around after thousands of activists joined together on the streets, according to the BBC.

Senator Rodolfo Urtubey was recorded making a very controversial statement in which he expressed his view that rape occurring within marriage did not conform to the “classic” definition of rape because it did not involve violence. He has since said that he was misinterpreted.

Legalizing abortion in Argentina has been a major public health concern as thousands of women end up in hospitals every year due to complications from having illegal abortions. In 2016 alone, 43 women died from such complications.

Demonstrators against the decriminalization of abortion gather outside Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018.
  Natacha Pisarenko / AP Images

The BBC also compiled some of the statements made by rival campaigners during the debate.

Maria Castillo, a campaigner outside of parliament is quoted as having said, “Abortion always kills a child and it doesn’t solve the woman’s problem. We believe that this is never the solution. Faced with an unexpected pregnancy abortion is never the solution. There are always other solutions.”

Norma Durango from the opposition Peronist party defended her stance on the issue.

“This law doesn’t obligate, nor does it recommend anyone have an abortion. The only thing this law does is defend the right to choose.”

The global trend has been toward legalization of abortion, especially after the overwhelmingly Catholic nation of Ireland overturned a ban on abortion in May of this year. However, in many parts of the world, the debate continues.