Move is blow for Catholic Church and portends further inroads in Latin America.
Argentina has legalized abortion.
With a vote in the Argentine Senate coming at the end of a night of debate in the chamber Wednesday morning, Latin America’s largest country — and the homeland of Pope Francis — will now allow women to terminate their pregnancies for any reason up to 14 weeks. After that, there will be exceptions allowed for rape and the woman’s health. The law allows minors as young as 15 to have an abortion without parental consent.
Passage of the bill — by a vote of 38-29, with one abstention — came weeks after the lower house of Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, voted to legalize abortion by a vote of 131-117.
Martín Zeballos Ayerza, who represents pro-life organizations in Argentina’s Senate, said Wednesday he was troubled by a number of “coincidences” regarding the vote’s timing.
“Just when Argentina must negotiate its foreign debt with the International Monetary Fund and just after the result of the elections in the U.S., the abortion bill is presented,” he said in a WhatsApp message to Aleteia.
Zeballos added that the Senate vote “surprised” former Argentine President Carlos Saul Menem, 90, who is now a senator representing La Rioja. His “delicate state of health” prevented him from voting, Zeballos said.
Menem in 1998 introduced the Day of the Unborn Child when he was president, commemorated each March 25.
Zeballos, the lobbyist, also pointed out the that text of the new abortion law “expressly violates 13 provincial constitutions, in addition to the national one.”
Defeat for Pope Francis
Passage of the abortion law is a blow to the Catholic Church and many other Argentinians who fought to protect the rights of the unborn child. On December 28, the feast of the Holy Innocents, a day which has come to be one of commemoration of victims of abortion, the nation’s bishops called for a day of fasting and prayer. In a homily that day, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez of La Plata said that “what’s gestating in the womb of the woman is not another species, it’s not a phenomenon, nor a tumor, it’s a human life with its own genes and a unique identity.”
Hours before the vote, Pope Francis commented on Twitter, “The Son of God was born an outcast, in order to tell us that every outcast is a child of God. He came into the world as each child comes into the world, weak and vulnerable, so that we can learn to accept our weaknesses with tender love.”
The tweet was widely regarded in Argentina as a message to undecided senators.
In recent letters to Argentinians, the pope has noted that the pro-life position is a “scientific” issue, not a religious one, however.
Now, some fear that the pro-abortion victory in Argentina may encourage activists in other Latin American countries where abortion is still illegal.