Argentina’s legal abortion vote carries weight for all Latin America

BUENOS AIRES | A Wednesday vote on legalizing abortions in Argentina, highly anticipated because of the ripple effects it could cause across Latin America, has turned into a nail-biter, with the long-favored anti-abortion camp’s lead narrowing in the final hours.

Following a marathon debate amid dueling protest marches, lawmakers in the lower house of Congress are expected to vote in the wee hours of the morning on the bill that would allow all abortions until the 14th week of pregnancy.

A Tuesday vote count showed 117 lawmakers favoring the measure, with 119 opposed and 19 undecided. If subsequently approved by the Senate, President Mauricio Macri, despite being an abortion opponent, is expected to sign the bill into law.

Wednesday’s vote follows a months-long national debate that pitted pro-life groups backed by the influential Catholic Church against a women’s rights coalition seeking to make Argentina the first major Latin American country to allow all abortions, which would be provided free of charge in public hospitals. In nationally televised committee hearings, lawmakers heard hours of emotionally charged testimony from dozens of witnesses after Mr. Macri had opened sessions on March 1 with a plea for a “mature” debate he said the country owed itself after decades of kicking the can down the road.

Actress and singer Muriel Santa Ana told the panel about a secret abortion she had had in the early 1990s.

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