Legal abortion bill rejected in Argentina

Anti-abortion activists carry a

Anti-abortion activists carry a"Yes To Life banner during a protest in Buenos Aires

Argentina's senate has rejected a bill which would have legalised abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

On Thursday, anti-abortion activists and abortion-rights advocates - many wearing green bandanas that have come to symbolize the country's growing women's rights movement - stood outside the National Congress as the Senate debate dragged on for more than 16 hours before finally going to a vote.

The vote came after months of fiercely polarised campaigns on the issue.

In Chile, the constitutional Court a year ago 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 and in cases of rape.

The result was welcomed by fireworks and shouts of joy among anti-abortion activists gathered outside of Congress.

A small number of disturbances were reported with some pro-abortion campaigners starting fires and throwing stones at police.

Worldwide human rights and women's groups were following the vote, and figures such as American actress Susan Sarandon and Canadian author Atwood supported the pro-abortion cause in Argentina.

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Earlier, Pope Francis said the deliberate termination of pregnancy was "an atrocity" and compared it with Nazism. "Sooner rather than later, women will have the decision they need, sooner rather than later we will win this debate", he said in his closing speech.

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

Opposition Senator Pedro Guastavino said he was initially against the proposal but changed his mind after coming to understand that illegal abortions put lives at risk.

Currently, abortion is allowed in Argentina in only three cases, similar to most of Latin America: rape, a threat to the mother's life or if the foetus is disabled.

What would the abortion bill have done? . Uruguay and Cuba are the only countries in the region to have fully decriminalized abortion. Its defeat means lawmakers must wait a year to resubmit legislation.

Paula Avila-Guillen, a director of Women's Equality Center, an abortion rights advocacy group, tells Reuters that the bill's supporters are prepared to regroup.

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