Argentina legalizes abortion; largest Latin American nation to do so

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Dec. 30 (UPI) — Argentina on Wednesday passed a law legalizing abortion and became the largest nation in Latin America to do so.

The Argentina Senate voted to pass the measure 38-29 in a reversal of a 2018 vote that blocked a wider-ranging abortion bill. The House had already passed the bill.

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The law legalizes abortions over the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The milestone marks a significant social shift for Argentina, which is largely Roman Catholic and is the native country of Pope Francis. The pope had opposed the proposal to legalize the procedure.

Wednesday’s historic passage was the fulfillment of a campaign promise made by Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, who was elected after vowing to push for legalization.

“Safe, legal and free abortion is now law,” Fernandez tweeted. “Today, we are a better society.”

Although the bill’s passage was widely celebrated in Argentina, there is still significant opposition on the issue.

Argentina legal secretary Vilmar Ibarra, one of the bill’s authors, praised the new law as a victory for women’s rights.

“We are very happy, because this law is the result of a decades-long fight by women, by campaigners, by people from different political parties,” Ibarra said.

Argentine Sen. Ines Blas voted against the bill.

“The interruption of a pregnancy is a tragedy,” Blas told the Senate before the vote. “It abruptly ends another developing life.”

Nearly 40,000 women and girls were hospitalized in 2016 after seeking illegal abortions, according to Human Rights Watch. Argentina’s health ministry said dozens of women died from medical complications related to abortion in 2018.