Argentina's Senate rejects legalizing abortion, in Pope Francis' homeland

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Amnesty International, a London-based human rights group, ran a full-page advertisement in the international edition of the New York Times on Tuesday depicting a clothes hanger to symbolize clandestine, unsafe abortions.

BUENOS AIRES-Argentina's Senate on Thursday rejected a bill to legalize elective abortions, an issue that sharply divided the nation while raising the prospect that it could prompt other Latin American countries to ease their strict antiabortion laws.

"The Argentine lawmakers chose today to turn their backs on hundreds of thousands of women and girls who have been fighting for their sexual and reproductive rights", said Mariela Belski, the group's executive director for Argentina. They vowed not to take human lives, no matter what it costs them.

"It was the thousands of young women who went out to the streets who made me change my opinion", she told the Senate Wednesday.

Initial reports had suggested that 39 senators were going to vote against the bill, but later in the day, teleSUR's correspondent said the latest count suggested 38 will probably reject the bill legalizing abortion. Sooner rather than later, women will have the decision they need, sooner rather than later we will win this debate,"Pichetto said in his closing speech".

Last June, Pope Francis-who is Argentinian-compared the practice of abortion to Nazi eugenics and ethnic cleansing.

Senator Norma Durango from the Justice Party said she would work "until the last minute so that this becomes law", warning that those who vote against the bill would be "responsible for continuing deaths". Speaking with the conservative daily La Nación, Michetti said she would like to see a return to an outright abortion ban in all cases - something Argentina has not seen since 1921, when it adopted the law's exceptions.

Catholic and evangelical groups protested abortion with the slogan, "Argentina, filicide (child murder) will be your ruin".

In neighbouring Brazil, supporters and opponents of abortion recently testified before the Supreme Federal Tribunal in an extraordinary session on whether to allow elective abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

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"We're talking about the right to live in dignity, with autonomy, to be able to choose freely", added the 67-year-old mother of three.

"Abortion is the ultimate red line for the church", Celia Szusterman, trustee of the United Kingdom board of Pro-Mujer and director of the Latin America program at the Institute for Statecraft, told CNN.

Argentina, the homeland of Pope Francis and home to some 30 million Catholics, allows abortions only in cases of rape or danger to the mother's health.

Chile's Constitutional Court past year upheld legislation ending the Andean nation's absolute ban on abortions, permitting the procedure when a woman's life is in danger, when a fetus is not viable or in cases of rape.

Various charities have estimated that 500,000 illegal, secret abortions are carried out every year in Argentina, resulting in around 100 deaths.

Supporters of the bill held protests for months under the banner of Ni Una Menos, a coalition of women's rights groups.

"It is not a question of beliefs, but of a problem that exists", Fernandez said.

In a statement after the vote, the bishops' conference said it was time to address the "new divisions developing between us. through a renewed exercise of dialogue".