Buenos Aires, Aug 9 : The Argentine Senate has narrowly rejected a bill to legalize abortion, dashing hopes of pro-abortion rights advocates in the predominantly Catholic country and the homeland of Pope Francis.
The legislation, which had been approved by the Chamber of Deputies on June 14, would have allowed abortions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, reports Efe news.
The Senate vote on Wednesday night counted 31 in favour, 38 against and two abstentions out of the total 72 seats.
"Those of us who work on human rights know these are long-term fights.
There is a momentum now that we haven't had in Argentina in the past," Tamara Taraciuk Broner, senior Americas researcher at Human Rights Watch, told CNN before the vote.
"If it doesn't move forward, then we'll have to continue pushing for it."
As senators debated the bill late into Wednesday night, pro-abortion rights activists rallied and the Catholic Church held a "Mass for Life" in the capital Buenos Aires.
The bill has ignited passions and sparked widespread protests in Argentina, with anti-abortion campaigners protesting in the streets under blue "save both lives" banners and members of the opposing side in the debate donning green bandanas.
Supporters of the bill rallied across the region on Wednesday in Chile, Uruguay, Mexico and Peru as well as across the Atlantic in Spain.
While Pope Francis hasn't addressed the legislation directly, he did speak out strongly against abortion just days after the bill was approved by the lower house - comparing abortion to avoid birth defects to Nazi eugenics, CNN reported.