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Argentina's Senate kills bill that would have legalized abortion during first 14 weeks of pregnancy

Pro-life activists rally outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires. Legislation legalizing abortion failed to pass in Argentina's Senate on Thursday. (ALBERTO RAGGIO/AFP/Getty Images)

Argentina's Senate narrowly rejected a bill legalizing abortion on Thursday.

What's the situation?

Currently, abortion is illegal in Argentina except in instances of rape, serious health risks to the mother, or if the mother is mentally disabled, according to the Washington Post. Women found guilty of having illegal abortions can serve up to four years in prison, and medical professionals involved in such procedures can go to prison for up to six years.

The proposed legislation would have allowed abortions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy for women and girls as young as 13.

Lawmakers debated the bill for more than 16 hours, during which pro-choice Sen. Pedro Guastavino complained he had been aggressively lobbied by the Catholic Church ahead of time, saying he'd had to "dodge crucifixes," the BBC reported.

Sen. Esteban Bullrich, who opposed the legislation, said "This bill, which is a bad one, does not intend to reduce abortion. It doesn't intend to reduce that tragedy. It legalizes it. It legalizes the failure," the Post said.

Ultimately, the measure was struck down in a 38-31 vote. Two lawmakers abstained, and another was absent during the vote. Now that the bill has failed, lawmakers cannot resubmit legislation until next year.

What happened next?

Advocates on both sides of the abortion issue had gathered outside the National Congress awaiting the outcome.

When the result was told to the demonstrators — who were separated by police and riot fences — the pro-life camp set off fireworks in celebration, and the pro-choice side threw rocks and lit fires in protest.

"We knew it wasn't going to pass, but we felt we had to be here anyway to make our presence felt," activist Jimena Del Potro told the New York Times, "We will no longer be silent and we won't let them win. Abortion will be legal soon. Very soon."

After spending nearly eight hours rallying with fellow pro-lifers, Maria Curutchet said, "It was a very emotional day. We were out in huge numbers and showed that we will defend the two lives, no matter the cost."

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