Argentine senators on Thursday voted against legalising abortion in the homeland of Pope Francis, dashing the hopes of women's rights groups after the bill was approved by Congress's lower house in June.
Senate lawmakers voted 38 to 31 against the measure, which would have allowed abortion for the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Some protesters garbage and wooden pallets and threw stones with riot police, who attempted to disperse them with tear gas and water cannon.
The vote in Argentina came almost two months after Argentina's Chamber of Deputies narrowly approved the measure and President Mauricio Macri said that despite his personal opposition to abortion, he was prepared to sign it.
On Wednesday, he said regardless of the result, the vote and the surrounding debate was a victory for democracy in Argentina. Currently, abortion in the South American nation is only allowed in cases of rape or if it endangers the mother's health. Thousands of women, majority poor, are hospitalized each year for complications linked due to unsafe abortions.
Argentina's lawmakers on Wednesday night rejected a bill that would have legalized abortion in the country.
As NPR's Colin Dwyer reported earlier, the bill's backers had argued it was an important step in a country where an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 illegal abortions occur each year.
That dealt a hammer blow to the Catholic Church, which is as revered in Ireland as it is in Argentina. Uruguay and Cuba are the only countries in the region to have fully decriminalized abortion. More recently, the Ni Una Menos, or Not One Less, movement that was created in Argentina to fight violence against women has grown into a global phenomenon.
Pro-life activists rally outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires.
But the city's archbishop, Cardinal Mario Poli, appeared to speak for many when he told churchgoers: "It's not about religious beliefs but about a humanitarian reason". They vowed not to take human lives, no matter what it costs them.
Pope Francis this year had denounced abortion as the "white glove" equivalent of the Nazi-era eugenics program and urged families "to accept the children that God gives them".
Despite false warnings to the contrary, no woman or medical professional is in prison for practicing abortion in Argentina, despite its illegal status.
"Let's recognize that we're facing a public health tragedy because 3,030 women who have died is a tragedy", said Magdalena Odarda, a senator for Rio Negro province. Moreover, efforts to present abortion as a health emergency, calling clandestine abortions the primary cause of maternal death in the country, statistics show that this claim is simply false.
"Just because the bill got shot down, it will not stop the movement", said Paula Avila-Guillen, a director of Women's Equality Center, an abortion rights advocacy group.
Many women in Argentina use misoprostol to end first-trimester pregnancies.