Argentina legalises abortion after historic vote

Argentina has become the largest Latin American country to legalise abortion after its senate approved the historic law change.

The Senate voted 38-29 to give millions of women access to legal terminations under a new law that is backed by President Alberto Fernández. The margin was expected to be much smaller.

Until now, abortions were only permitted in cases of rape or when the mother's health was at risk.

The bill had been approved by the Chamber of Deputies earlier this month.

The Catholic Church, which remains highly influential in Latin America, had opposed the move, calling on senators to reject the bill.

Abortion advocates hope Argentina's decision will spur similar movements in Latin America's other Catholic-majority states.

Elated pro-choice campaigners who had been keeping vigil outside Buenos Aires’s neoclassical congressional palace erupted in celebration as the result was announced at just after 4am on Wednesday.

Across Latin America and the Caribbean region, only Cuba, Uruguay, French Guiana and Guyana allow for elective abortions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

In Mexico City and the Mexican state of Oaxaca, abortions are also available on request, but are severely restricted throughout the rest of Mexico.

Activists have campaigned for a change in the law for years. The passing came two years after senators narrowly voted against legalising abortion.

President Fernández had made reintroducing it one of his campaign promises. "I'm Catholic but I have to legislate for everyone," he argued.

The president also said providing free and legal abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy was a matter of public health as "every year around 38,000 women" are taken to hospital due to clandestine terminations and that "since the restoration of democracy [in 1983] more than 3,000 have died".

Carino, head of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region said: “I feel incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to achieve. This is a historic moment for the country, without a doubt,” said

Carino added that it showed how, in spite of all the obstacles, change and progress are possible.

"Argentinian women and what’s happening right now will have an enormous impact on the region and the world."

Colombian activists recently petitioned the constitutional court to remove abortion from the country’s criminal code while campaigners in Chile hope a new constitution might lead to expanded women’s rights.

Senator Silvina García Larraburu voted against the bill in 2018 but backed it this time. Speaking during the debate she said, coming close to tears: "My vote is in favour of free women, of women who can decide according to their own conscience."

The Senate has also passed a complimentary bill that will strengthen the social and economic safety net for pregnant individuals facing economic hardships who want to continue their pregnancies.

The "1,000 day plan" will strengthen services from pregnancy up to the first 1,000 days of a child's life.