Abortion-rights activists watch live video streaming of lawmakers in session, outside Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. Congress approved a bill that legalize abortion in Argentina. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Argentina’s Senateapproved a bill to legalize abortionWednesday in an historic vote seen as a major victory for abortion rights advocates in the Catholic-majority country.

The Senate voted 38-29 to give millions of women access to legal terminations under a new law supported by President Alberto Fernández. The margin was expected to be much smaller.

Massive crowds of abortion rights activists and anti-abortion campaigners gathered outside the Palace of the Argentine National Congress to await the results, which came in the early hours of the morning after an overnight debate. Supporters of the bill greeted the news with loud cheers — and, in some cases, tears of joy.

Gabriela Giacomelli, whose two sisters aborted illegally, called the scene “very emotional.”

“We have been fighting for years,” Giacomelli said. “I see young people now, though I hope they never have to abort, but if they do now they can do it safely.”

Anotherabortion rights activist, Sofia Gonzalez, said she believed Wednesday was a “historic moment” in Argentina’s history. “Starting today, I believe everything changes,” she added.

The proposed law will legalize abortion in all cases up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion in Argentina, South America’s third-most populous country, is currently only permitted when a pregnancy results from rape or endangers the life or health of the woman.

In all other circumstances, abortion is illegal and punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

Abortion advocates hope Argentina’s decision will spur similar movements in Latin America’s other Catholic-majority states.

Tamara Taraciuk Broner, the acting deputy director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Americas Division, said before the vote that if the law passed, it would “send a very strong message to the region that it is possible to move forward with legalization of abortion — even in a Catholic country like Argentina.”

Across Latin America and the Caribbean region, only Cuba, Uruguay, French Guiana and Guyana allow for elective abortions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. In Mexico City and the Mexican state of Oaxaca, abortions are also available on request, but are severely restricted throughout the rest of Mexico.

By contrast, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Suriname ban abortions in nearly all circumstances. Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama allow for abortion only if it’s to preserve the woman’s health or help save her life. 

source: CNN

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