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Abortion bill passes lower house of Argentina congress


Evgeniya Uvarova | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 12/12/20

Legalization faces tougher challenge in Senate, giving pro-lifers hope.

In a cordoned-off area outside Argentina’s Congress, a large group of activists danced and partied through the night as legislators inside debated a bill to legalize abortion.

In another cordoned-off area, people held vigil, praying that the lawmakers would uphold the sanctity of unborn life.

At 7 o’clock Friday morning, as the two groups watched the vote on large screens, the activists had a reason to keep partying, while the vigil-keepers had a reason to reinvigorate their prayers.

At the end of 20 hours of debate, the Chamber of Deputies passed a bill to allow abortions up to 14 weeks gestation. The vote was 131-117, with six deputies abstaining. 

Before debate began the day before, the bill was modified to require parental consent for minors and allow hospitals to conscientiously object to performing abortions. Private hospitals that refuse to provide abortions, however, will have to pay for the expenses a woman incurs to abort elsewhere.

Currently, abortion in Argentina is allowed only in cases of rape or if the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother’s health. 

Unidad Provida, a coalition of pro-life organizations, issued a call for “policies that contemplate the care of the two lives that are at stake in a vulnerable pregnancy.”

Pope’s intervention

The day before the debate began, there was an inter-religious prayer service attended by Catholic bishops and representatives of Argentina’s Jewish Association, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Argentine Islamic Center, the Baptist Evangelical Convention of Argentina, the Institute for Religious Dialogue and the Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches, Crux’s Inés San Martínreported.

“Cardinal Mario Poli, handpicked by Pope Francis as his successor as archbishop of Buenos Aires, said that different faiths were coming together for what ‘fundamentally binds us, as is the case of the life to be born and the conviction of the inviolability of all human life,’” San Martín wrote. 

“We cannot escape the commitment to lend our voice to the most fragile and vulnerable such as the innocent yet to be born, because no one has the right to cut off their participation in the festival of life,” Poli said.

Pope Francis in recent weeks has spoken about the proposed legislation in his native Argentina, saying, “It’s good for us to ask two questions: Is it fair to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem? Is it fair to hire a hitman to resolve a problem?

The bill faces a tougher challenge in the Senate.

“Our hope now is the Senate, and the good thing is, we’re more prepared than we were two years ago,” Paloma Guevara, told the New York Times, referring to the last time Congress attempted to pass an abortion bill. 

Argentina would become only the fourth nation — and by far the most populous — to make abortion legal in Latin America.

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