WORLD / AMERICAS
Polarized Argentine Senate set for historic vote on legalizing abortion
Published: Dec 29, 2020 05:58 PM
A polarized Senate was expected to decide on Tuesday whether to legalize abortion in Argentina in a vote experts say could go either way.

The bill proposed by President Alberto Fernandez already passed the Chamber of Deputies on December 11, despite fierce opposition from the Catholic Church and evangelical Christians.

"I'm Catholic but I have to legislate for everyone. Every year around 38,000 women are taken to hospital due to [clandestine] abortions and since the restoration of democracy [in 1983] more than 3,000 have died of this," said Fernandez.

The government says there are between 370,000 and 520,000 illegal abortions a year in Argentina, a country of 44 million.

A similar bill two years ago also passed the lower house but then floundered in the Senate.

This bill aims to legalize voluntary abortions at up to 14 weeks. Terminations are currently only allowed in two cases: rape and danger to the mother's life.

Tuesday's debate was to begin at 4:00 pm (1900 GMT), but the vote is not expected until sometime during the night.

Despite measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, both pro- and anti-abortion supporters plan to demonstrate in front of parliament.

Religious leaders from the Catholic Church and Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches have called for their supporters "to unite to implore for respect and care for unborn life."

"God is the one who decides the time of birth and the time of death, and prohibits humanity from getting involved in this territory," the Christian leaders said.

The vote is expected to be razor-thin, despite the governing alliance led by Fernandez making up 41 of the 72 Senate seats. Not everyone in that alliance supports the bill, while the right-wing neo-liberal opposition is mostly opposed to it.

Should the vote result in a tie, the deciding lot would fall to Senate President Cristina Kirchner, the country's ex-president and current vice president who two years ago changed her stance from anti-abortion to pro-choice.---
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