Argentina’s senators on Thursday voted against legalizing abortion in the homeland of Pope Francis, dashing the hopes of women’s rights groups after the bill was approved by the legislature’s lower house months earlier.
The vote, with 38 against, 31 in favor and two abstentions, capped a marathon session that began the day before and stretched into the early hours of Thursday.
Fireworks and shouts of joy erupted among anti-abortion activists camped outside Congress, while pro-choice campaigners, many decked in the green scarves that had come to symbolize their movement, were downcast.
Some burnt garbage and wooden pallets and threw stones at riot police, who attempted to disperse them with tear gas and water cannon.
Cabinet chief Marcos Pena ruled out putting the issue to referendum, though, saying the process chosen to decide the issue was “a parliamentatry debate.”
The vote in Argentina followed a referendum in May in Ireland, another traditionally Catholic country, that paved the way to legislate for the termination of fetuses. It also came after months of heated campaigns on the polarizing issue.
The Argentine bill was passed by Congress’s lower house in June by just 129 votes to 125, but was widely expected to fall short of the votes needed to pass in the Senate.
Lawmakers must now wait a year to resubmit the legislation.
“The debate will continue,” said President Mauricio Macri, who praised “a mature parliamentary debate.”
Although pronouncing himself “in favor of life,” Macri had been largely responsible for pushing the bill to a vote in parliament.
He promised to increase sex education in schools and the distribution of contraceptives.
“The problem is there and we have to keep working hard so that all these girls will have the possibility to choose and plan their lives,” he said.
The prospect of legalizing abortion had energized women’s groups and still retains a huge support from citizens.
Rallies took place around the world in front of Argentine diplomatic missions, mainly in support of the bill.