'This is not over': Argentina's Senate rejects bill to legalize abortion

Anti-abortion activists carry a

Argentina's Senate narrowly rejected a bill legalizing abortion on Thursday.

Argentina's senate has rejected a bill which would have legalised abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The debate in the Senate went on for more than 16 hours and was reportedly very passionate at times.

The lower house had already passed the measure and conservative President Mauricio Macri had said that he would sign it, even though he is anti-abortion.

Now abortion is allowed in Argentina only in cases of rape, or if the mother's health is in danger.

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"What this vote showed is that Argentina is still a country that represents family values", anti-abortion activist Victoria Osuna told Reuters. "It doesn't reduce abortions - it just makes them unsafe", said Amnesty International secretary general Salil Shetty in an interview with the progressive UK Guardian last April.

Earlier in the day, scores of buses had brought people from around the country into Buenos Aires for the dueling rallies outside Congress.

In 2016, the organization sent 32 activists from Argentina and other nations to participate in the 60th UN Commission on the Status of Women.

There are at least 350,000 illegal abortions in Argentina every year, the Ministry of Health estimates, though worldwide human rights groups say the number may be higher.

USA -based organizations such as Live Action, Human Defense Initiative and the National Right to Life Committee expressed their opposition to the bill as well. Thousands of women, majority poor, are hospitalized each year for complications linked due to unsafe abortions - the main cause of maternal death.

For many of them, the methods used to induce an abortion include using an IV tube with a sharp wire clothes hanger or a knitting needle to try to break the amniotic sac inside womb.

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Hundreds of doctors who opposed the bill had laid their white medical coats outside the presidential palace, while the pro-choice movement - in their signature green - held larger demonstrations and drew support from the likes of The Handmaid's Tale author Margaret Atwood and actress Susan Sarandon.

The vote followed a referendum in Ireland, another traditionally Catholic country, in May that paved the way to legislate for the termination of fetuses.

A partition was set up to keep the green-decked pro-abortion contingent separated from the anti-abortion activists who donned baby blue.

Celia Szusterman, trustee of the United Kingdom board of Pro-Mujer and director of the Latin America programme at the Institute for Statecraft, told CNN that the vote was "a step backward for women's rights and women's health".

The world was watching and Argentina's senators failed. There are three exceptions: if a woman is raped, pregnancy puts her life in danger, or a fetus is brain-dead.

Uruguay and Cuba are the only Latin American countries that now have broadly legalized abortion.

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