Clashes in Argentina after plans to legalise abortion rejected

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If the law had been approved, Argentina, a country of 44 million, would have been the most populous nation in Latin America to ease its strict anti-abortion law.

Hours of heated debate and impassioned pleas ended with a 38 to 31 vote against the measure.

In June, the lower house narrowly passed after a session lasting almost 24 hours while hundreds of thousands of women held a vigil outside.

Their efforts gained new impetus when President Mauricio Macri - who opposes abortion - called on congress to consider a vote on it, and it narrowly passed in the lower house.

Under Argentine law, abortion is only allowed if a woman has been raped or her health is in danger.

Supporters of the bill argued it would save lives, and the run-up to the vote sparked months of passionate debate and protest in the Catholic country.

On the day of the vote, Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli celebrated Mass to pray for the vote's positive outcome.

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US -based organizations such as Live Action, Human Defense Initiative and the National Right to Life Committee expressed their opposition to the bill as well.

Pope Francis, a native of Argentina, also largely stayed on the sidelines, except for a strong denunciation of abortion in June.

Scores of buses have brought people into Buenos Aires from other parts of Argentina, city hall said.

Worldwide human rights and women's groups were following the vote, and figures such as USA actress Susan Sarandon and Canadian author Atwood supported the pro-abortion cause in Argentina. Last year, Chile made it easier for women to access legal abortions under certain circumstances.

The bill has ignited passions and sparked widespread protests in Argentina, with anti-abortion campaigners protesting in the streets under blue "save both lives" banners and members of the opposing side in the debate donning green bandanas.

Ousset said while working at the hospital she realized there was another reality: abortions were being performed in private clinics with better conditions.

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

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Jose Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, said that Argentina had a "historic opportunity" to protect the rights of women.

"What this vote showed is that Argentina is still a country that represents family values", anti-abortion activist Victoria Osuna told Reuters.

"Fortunately, women are gaining spaces and we've been learning from those spaces that they're demanding", said Gustavo Bayley, a tattoo artist wearing the abortion movement's green handkerchief on his arm.

In neighboring Chile, the Constitutional Court a year ago upheld a measure that would end that country's absolute ban on abortions, permitting abortions when a woman's life is in danger, when a fetus is not viable and in cases of rape.

The Senate in predominately Roman Catholic Argentina has rejected a law that would have legalized abortion, rebuffing a grass-roots abortion-rights movement.

In testimony before Congress, Duro emphasized that "legal abortion also kills", adding that it doesn't solve maternal mortality. While the pope hadn't spoken out about the bill, he did make a statement against abortion in the days prior to its vote, "comparing abortion to avoid birth defects to Nazi eugenics", CNN reported.

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