Argentina is about to become the biggest South American country to legalize abortion

Pro-abortion protesters in Argentina.
(Image credit: Ricardo Ceppi/Getty Images)

After years of protests and failed votes, Argentina lawmakers have voted to legalize abortion.

Argentina's Senate voted 38-29 early Wednesday to legalize abortions in all cases up to 14 weeks. President Alberto Fernández has promised to sign the bill, making Argentina the biggest country in heavily Catholic South America to allow abortions.

As it stands, Argentina allows abortions in limited cases, including in case of rape or to protect the life of the mother. Many of South America's countries have similar laws or outlaw abortion entirely, though some have started to legalize the practice. Argentinan activists have spent years protesting abortion restrictions, and again on Wednesday dressed in green and gathered outside the Senate as deliberations went on. Opposers of abortion legalization meanwhile marched in blue, with support from Argentina native Pope Francis.

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Despite one abstention, the Wednesday vote was wider than expected, The New York Times reports. It came after 12 hours of debate within the Senate, and after a thin 131-117 margin in Argentina's lower chamber. The lower house also passed a similar bill two years ago, but the Senate struck it down despite the then-further-right president promising to sign it. Fernández, who campaigned on promises of legalizing abortion and protecting LGBTQ+ rights, was elected in 2019.

Some senators who signed the bill still didn't entirely support abortions, but noted that they still happen, unsafely, despite being against the law. As Lucila Crexell, a senator who abstained from the 2018 vote, put it to the Times, "Clandestine abortion is a silent figure that kills, harms and writes very sad stories."

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