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Argentina’s senate votes down abortion bill

MEXICO CITY (CNS): The Argentine Senate voted 38-31 against a bill that would have decriminalised abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Senators voted against the measure early August 9 following a 15-hour debate. The measure had been approved in June by the lower house of Congress.
 
The Bishops’ Conference of Argentina hailed the vote, saying the debate in the country opened an opportunity for dialogue and a chance to focus more on social ministry.
 
The Senate debate revealed deep divisions in Argentina, where support for decriminalising abortion drew stronger support in the capital, Buenos Aires, than in the more conservative provinces. 
 
“Everyone has time to express their viewpoints and be heard by legislators in a healthy democratic exercise. But the only ones that didn’t have an opportunity de make themselves heard are the human beings that struggled to be born,” Mario Cardinal Poli, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, said his homily at a what organisers called a Mass for Life on August 8.
 
He acknowledged that the Church could be doing more to work with women saying, “We have done little to accompany the women when find themselves in tough situations, particularly when the (pregnancy) has is the result of rape or situations of extreme poverty.”
 
In a statement after the vote, the bishops’ conference said it was time to address the “new divisions developing between us ... through a renewed exercise of dialogue.”
 
“We are facing great pastoral challenges to speak more clearly on the value of life,” the bishops said.
 
More than 75 per cent of Argentinians still consider themselves Catholic, but the opposition to the abortion bill also came from Protestant and evangelical congregations, prompting the bishops’ conference to acknowledge that “ecumenical dialogue and inter-religious dialogue has grown at this time of joining forces to protect life.”
 
Analysts in Argentina say Church opposition to the abortion bill started somewhat quietly as the measure was not expected to pass the lower house. 
 
Pope Francis, who is from Argentina, also largely stayed on the sidelines, except for a strong denunciation of abortion in June. At the time he said, “Last century, the whole world was scandalised by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves.”
 
Jose Maria Poirier, publisher of the Catholic magazine, Criterio, said, “When the lower house result occurred, (the Church hierarchy) started to understand something similar could happen with the senators so the Argentine Church and various movements and associations became frontally against the bill.”
 
He added that the fact that the pope did not directly intervene created tension in the Church in Argentina. 
 
Argentine president, Mauricio Macri, had promised to sign the bill into law had it been approved. Observers said the relationship between the Catholic Church and Macri had deteriorated somewhat as the Pope Francis’ statements on economic matters were not well received as president tried to implement difficult economic reforms in recent months.

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