Argentina’s Senate rejected Wednesday a bill that would have legalized abortion before 14 weeks, dealing a significant blow to the abortion rights movement in the region.
Hundreds of thousands of anti-abortion and pro-choice activists braved terrible weather to protest around government buildings in Buenos Aires ahead of the vote.
Those in favor of the bill reacted angrily when the result was announced, starting fires and throwing missiles at the police.
Opponents of the bill were jubilant. "What this vote showed is that Argentina is still a country that represents family values," one activist told Reuters.
After a marathon debate in the Senate, lawmakers voted by 38 to 31 against the bill, with two abstentions. One lawmaker, who was heavily pregnant, missed the vote. The bill had previously passed the lower house by a narrow margin, and pro-choice activists were initially hopeful it would also pass the upper house. However, a number of senators changed their minds in the days before the Thursday’s crunch vote, saying they would no longer support the bill in its current form.
The power of the Catholic Church in Argentina, the homeland of Pope Francis, played a vital role in the bill’s demise, with rural areas deeply hostile to the proposed change in the law.
Abortion is currently only legal in Argentina in cases of rape, when the fetus is disabled, or when the pregnancy poses a threat to the life of the mother.
Inside the chamber Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, there were impassioned speeches from both sides. Anger led to name-calling, with Vice President Gabriela Michetti overheard dismissing Cambiemos Senator Luis Naidenoff as an "asshole,” and telling him not to “break balls.”
The vote was closely watched by activists and rights groups from across Latin America, where abortion laws are among the most restrictive in the world. Only Uruguay and Cuba have fully decriminalized abortion.
Though this bill was defeated, activists are expected to continue their push for reform — buoyed by the huge levels of support campaign groups such as Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) received. A revised bill could come before the Senate again as soon as next year.
Cover image: An activist in favor of the legalization of abortion reacts outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires, on August 9, 2018 after senators rejected the bill to legalize the abortion. (EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images)