The Senate of Argentina has voted down a bill that would have radically liberalised the country’s abortion laws.
Senators voted by 38-31 against the plan to legalise abortion for any reason up to 14 weeks’ gestation, and up to birth in cases of rape, risk to the mother’s life and health, and severe disability.
The lower house of the Argentine Congress had passed the measure by a wafer-thin 129-125 margin in June.
The vote in the Senate means the bill is defeated for this legislative year, but parliamentarians could choose to start again in 2019.
During the debate, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, now a senator, spoke in favour of the bill. However, one of Fernández’s closest allies, Senator Silvina García Larraburu, changed her mind in the run-up to the vote and opposed it, accusing incumbent President Mauricio Macri of using the debate to distract from the country’s economic woes. Macri had said that while he personally opposes abortion, he would not veto the bill if Congress had passed it.
While the Senate debated the bill, thousands of Catholics gathered in Buenos Aires Cathedral for a Mass for Life, celebrated by Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli.
In his sermon, the cardinal said that abortion “will always be a tragedy” and is “far from being a solution”. He also called on senators to “safeguard the right to life of all, especially the weakest and most vulnerable”.
There were ugly scenes outside the National Congress after the vote as pro-abortion activists rioted and set fires, leading to several arrests.