Argentina church asks lawmakers to search their hearts ahead of abortion vote

·1 min read
FILE PHOTO: Argentina's Senate in Buenos Aires during COVID-19 crisis

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The Church of Argentina on Saturday called on the country´s lawmakers to vote their conscience this coming week, when the Senate will take up a bill to legalize abortion that has divided a nation with long-held Roman Catholic roots.

During a religious celebration in a small city west of Buenos Aires, Bishop Oscar Ojea, president of the local bishops' conference and an outspoken opponent of abortion, suggested a "no" vote was supported by "medical science and law."

"Blessed Virgin, we ask you to pause your gaze on the legislators who will decide on a matter of such extreme delicacy," Ojea said during a prayer service, "so that you can provoke a serene reflection in their minds and in their hearts."

On Dec. 11, Argentina's lower house of Congress approved the measure to allow abortion until the fourteenth week of pregnancy. The coming Senate vote is expected to be close, and controversial.

A similar bill was defeated by Argentina's Congress in 2018. Current law allows for abortion only when there is a serious risk to the mother's health or in the event of rape.

Argentina’s abortion rights movement, backed by feminist groups galvanized in recent years to stop violence against women, argues that legalizing the practice would end unregulated abortions that government data has shown among the leading causes of maternal deaths.

Broad demonstrations are expected both for and against the bill when it is debated in the Senate on Tuesday.

On the same day, the Senate will also debate a side project to provide assistance to women who want to move forward with their pregnancy and need help facing economic hardship.

(Reporting by Jorge Otaola in Buenos Aires; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Matthew Lewis)