Argentina implements the law legalizing abortion and hence becomes the first country to do so in Latin America.
Argentina’s Senate passed the law early Wednesday after a marathon 12-hour session, a victory for the women’s movement that has been fighting for the right for decades.
The measure was passed with 38 votes in favor, 29 against and one abstention, after a session that began late Tuesday.
Argentina will be the largest Latin American country to legalize abortion and the vote was being closely watched. With the exceptions of Uruguay, Cuba, Mexico City, Mexico’s Oaxaca state, the Antilles and French Guiana, abortion remains largely illegal across the region.
Argentina until now has penalized women and those who help them abort. The only exceptions were cases involving rape or a risk to the health of the mother, and activists complain even these exceptions are not respected in some provinces.
Argentina’s feminist movement has been demanding legal abortion for more than 30 years and activists say the bill’s approval could mark a watershed in Latin America, where the Roman Catholic Church’s influence has long dominated.
Just hours before the Senate session began Tuesday, the pope weighed in, tweeting: “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.”
“Our country is a country of many contradictions,” said Ester Albarello, a psychiatrist with a network of health professionals that supports the bill, who was among the demonstrators outside the congressional building. “It is the only one in the world that brought members of its genocidal military dictatorship to justice with all the guarantees. But we still don’t have a legal abortion. Why? Because the church is together with the state,” added Ester Albarello.