Catholic church leaders in Argentina have urged the government to think hard ahead of the final vote to legalise abortion.
On 11th December, the Lower House of Congress passed a bill to allow abortion to be carried out up to the 14th week of pregnancy for girls aged 13 and over, without the need for parental consent.
Under the current legislation, abortion is only permitted in the case of rape or if it represents a risk to the mother's health.
During a service, President of the Argentinean Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Oscar Ojea, said voting “no” was supported by “medical science and law” and asked the Virgin to “provoke a serene reflection in [lawmakers’] minds and in their hearts”.
“Blessed Virgin, we ask you to pause your gaze on the legislators who will decide on a matter of such extreme delicacy,” Bishop Ojea said.
“That they may not renounce their deepest convictions, so that all those invited to the banquet of life may be received by people who know how to create the conditions of justice necessary so that each one may have his place at this great table, without excluding anyone or privileging any,” he concluded.
Catholicism is a very strong force in Argentina, the homeland of Pope Francis. There was even a clause in the country’s constitution that required the president to be Catholic but this was removed in 1994.
Two years ago, another attempt to legalise abortion was rejected by the senate after a 15-hour debate. However, this time the vote is expected to pass.
If approved by the Senate, Argentina would join a very short list of countries that have legalised voluntary abortion, which includes Cuba and Uruguay to date.