Argentina approves bill to legalize abortion, Pope Francis reacts

Women in Argentina will now have the right to terminate pregnancy at up to 14 weeks.

Argentina on Wednesday legalized abortion when the Senate voted by 38 in favor to 29 against to approve a bill allowing the procedure through the 14th week of pregnancy.

It became the first major country in Latin America to pass such a bill. Under the previous law, abortions were only allowed in the case of rape or when pregnancy carries serious risks for the mother’s life.

The country’s Chamber of Deputies approved the bill earlier this month before sending it to the 72-seat Senate.

The initiative was spearheaded by President Alberto Fernandez and his left-leaning ruling bloc. However, not all lawmakers in his camp were in favor of the changes.

Pope Francis chips in

The debate was heavily influenced by the country’s powerful Catholic Church, which formed an alliance with the evangelicals in a bid to bury the bill. Some 62% of Argentinians identify themselves as Catholic, while over 15% declare themselves as evangelicals.

Pope Francis, who is Argentinian, mostly stayed silent on the debate until Tuesday evening. Hours before the Senate discussion was set to start, however, Francis tweeted what could be interpreted as support to the anti-abortion side.

“The Son of God was born discarded to tell us that every person discarded is a child of God. He came into the world as a child does, weak and fragile, so that we can embrace our weaknesses with tenderness,” the pope wrote.

Most countries in Latin America impose heavy restrictions on abortion, mostly due to the influence of the Catholic Church. Voluntary abortion is legal only in Cuba, Uruguay, Guyana, and parts of Mexico.