Argentinian bishops decry parliament vote to legalize abortion

A man stands next to a grafitti that reads "Legal abortion to not die" outside the Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 6, 2018. | Reuters/Marcos Brindicci

Catholic bishops in Argentina have denounced the recent vote by the parliament to legalize abortion in the country.

The chamber of deputies, the lower house of Argentina's Congress, had voted 129–123 last Thursday in favor of a legislation that seeks to legalize abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy.

In a statement, the bishops' conference expressed disappointment for the vote, saying: "This decision hurts us Argentines. But the pain for the abandonment and the exclusion of innocents must be transformed into strength and hope, to continue fighting for the dignity of all human life."

The proposal is also aimed at legalizing the procedure to protect the psychological health of the mother and in cases of fetal deformity.

According to Catholic Herald, the legislation must be approved by the Senate before it can be turned into law.

Guillermo Galeano, spokesman for the Diocese of Lomas de Zamora, believes that it will be harder for the bill to get approval in the Senate, but expressed concern that it could still pass.

"It's a surprise what happened today, so what happens in the Senate could also be a surprise," Galeano said, as reported by Catholic Herald.

President Mauricio Macri, who claimed to be pro-life, said that he will not veto the legislation when it reaches his desk.

The bishops' conference said that the legislation should prompt the church to step up its efforts in reaching out to those who are affected by abortion or unwanted pregnancies.

"As pastors, this recent time has caused us to recognize weaknesses in our pastoral work: integral sexual education in our educational institutes, the full recognition of women and men, and the accompaniment of women who are exposed to abortion or who have gone through this trauma. All of these are calls of a reality, which demands a response as a church," the conference stated, as reported by Catholic Herald.

A government survey has indicated that Argentinians are split on the issue of abortion. The poll conducted in April has shown that 45 percent of Argentinians are in favor of legalizing the procedure, while 46 percent were opposed.

Prior to the vote, more than three million Argentinians reportedly took part in a protest against the repeal of the country's ban on abortions.

Pro-choice activists have argued that despite being illegal, half a million abortions are being carried out in the country each year, resulting in fatal complications and other health issues on women.