By a vote of 129 to 125 with one abstention, Argentina's House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would legalize abortion in the first trimester.
The Argentine Bishops' Conference voiced sorrow over the passage of the bill.
“As Argentinians, this decision pains us,” said a statement from the Executive Committee and the Committee for the Laity and the Family.
However, they added, “the sorrow over forgetting and excluding the innocents must be transformed into strength and hope to continue fighting for the dignity of every human life.”
The bill passed the House of Representatives in a session lasting more than 20 hours.
It will now be sent to the Senate, and then to President Mauricio Macri, who has encouraged “responsible” debate over the topic and said that he personally opposes the legislation but will not veto it if Congress approves it.
The current law in Argentina prohibits abortion, except when the mother’s life or health is determined to be in danger, or in cases of rape.
The bill passed Thursday, however, would allow abortion on demand up to the 14th week of gestation. Minors under 16 could get an abortion without having to inform their parents.
Health care workers under the bill could be eligible for conscience-based objections to participating in an abortion if they make such a request in advance “individually and in writing” to the director of their medical center. Institutions and health care facilities as a whole would not be allowed to conscientiously object to abortion.
Unidad Provida, (Pro-Life Unity), an Argentine NGO that serves as an umbrella group for some 100 pro-life organizations, called the House passage of the bill “lamentable,” but assured that this outcome “does not intimidate us. It strengthens [our resolve].”
Pro-Life Unity praised “the courage of the representatives who rose up in defense of women and unborn children, raising their voices for those whom others want to silence with their systematic elimination.”
Now, the group said, “the Argentine Senate will have the opportunity to correct this dangerous threat to human rights and to honor the will of the nation's people.”
“We will only be able to build a more just Argentina by basing ourselves on unwavering respect for everyone's right to life, especially protecting the most vulnerable,” the pro-life network said.