Yahoo! News Photo Staff

Clashes after Argentine lawmakers reject bill to legalize abortion

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Argentina’s Senate rejected a bill Thursday to legalize elective abortion, a defeat for a grassroots movement that came closer than ever to achieving the decriminalization of the procedure in the homeland of Pope Francis.

Lawmakers debated for more than 15 hours and voted 38-31 against the measure that would have legalized abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The decision could echo across Latin America, where the Roman Catholic Church has lost influence and moral authority due to secularization, an out-of-touch clerical caste and an avalanche of sex abuse scandals.

For long hours, thousands of supporters, wearing green handkerchiefs that represent the effort to legalize abortion, and opponents of the measure, wearing light blue, braved the heavy rain and cold temperatures in Argentina’s winter to watch the debate on large screens set up outside Congress.

The demonstrations were largely peaceful, but after the vote, small groups of protesters clashed with police, throwing firebombs and setting up flaming barricades. Police officers responded with tear gas.

Pushed by a wave of demonstrations by women’s groups, the lower house had already passed the measure, and conservative President Mauricio Macri had said he would sign it, even though he is anti-abortion.

“Regardless of the result, today democracy wins,” Macri said ahead of the vote.

In Argentina, abortion is only allowed in cases of rape and risks to a woman’s health. Thousands of women, most of them poor, are hospitalized each year for complications linked to unsafe abortions. (AP)

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Pro-choice activists stand with their arms up before police, outside Congress where clashes broke out after activists learned lawmakers voted against a bill that would have legalized elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, early Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. (Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP)


Anti-abortion rights activists celebrate lawmakers voted against a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 9, 2018. (Photo: Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)


A man kicks a fence during protests outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires on Aug. 9, 2018, after senators rejected the bill to legalize abortion. (Photo: Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images)


A man is detained by a policeman during clashes outside the Congress after senators rejected a bill to legalize abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, early Aug. 8, 2018. (Photo: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters)


Anti-abortion rights activists celebrate lawmakers vote against a bill that would have legalized abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 9, 2018. (Photo: Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)


Riot police agents clash with demonstrators outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires on August 9, 2018, after senators rejected the bill to legalize abortion. (Photo: Eitan Abramovich/ AFP/Getty Images)


A woman in support of decriminalizing abortion spreads colored smoke outside Congress after lawmakers voted against an abortion bill in Buenos Aires, Argentina, early Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. (Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP)


Activists in favour of the legalization of abortion comfort each other outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires, on Aug. 9, 2018 after senators rejected the bill to legalize the abortion. (Photo: Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images)


Anti-abortion rights activists gather as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 9, 2018. (Photo: Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)


Pro-choice activists confront security forces spraying water from the other side of a mobile barrier wall set up outside Congress, after lawmakers voted against a bill that would have legalized elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, early Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. (Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP)


An abortion rights activist, with the words “Legal abortion” written on her cheek, attends a gathering as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 8, 2018. (Photo: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters)


Pro-life demonstrators play drums as they celebrate during a protest in Buenos Aires, Argentina, early on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. (Photo: Erica Canepa/Bloomberg via Getty Images)


Pro-choice activists stand with their arms up before police, outside Congress where clashes broke out after activists learned lawmakers voted against a bill that would have legalized elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, early Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. (Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP)


A pro-choice activist throws a bottle toward a mobile barrier wall set up outside Congress, after lawmakers voted against a bill that would have legalized elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, early Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. (Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP)


Anti-abortion rights activists gather as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 8, 2018. (Photo: Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)


Protesters demonstrate in support of loosening the abortion law, left, and against abortion, right, in this photo taken from Congress where lawmakers are debating the issue in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. Following months of increasingly tense debate, lawmakers are meeting ahead of a vote on a bill that would decriminalize abortions up to the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. (Photo: Delfina Linares/Argentine Senate via AP)


Abortion rights activists gather as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 8, 2018. (Photo: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters)


A demonstrator against the decriminalization of abortion prays outside Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. (Photo: Pablo Albarenga/AP)


Nuns and anti-abortion rights activists gather as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 8, 2018. (Photo: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters)


Abortion rights activists gather as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 8, 2018. (Photo: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters)


Anti-abortion-rights activists gather as lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill legalizing abortion, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 8, 2018. (Photo: Martin Acosta/Reuters)


A demonstrator in support of decriminalizing abortion watches live images of lawmakers debating the issue, outside Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. Following months of increasingly tense debate, lawmakers are meeting on Wednesday ahead of a vote on a bill that would decriminalize abortions up to the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)