Argentina's Chamber of Deputies approved a bill to decriminalize abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, despite vocal opposition from the country's Catholic bishops.

Lawmakers approved the legislation in the early hours of Dec. 11, voting 131-117 after debating through the night. The bill would allow abortion at any time for health reasons or in the case of rape. The version approved by the lower house was modified to allow more provisions for conscientious objection and to require patients under the age of 16 to have the permission of at least one parent or guardian.

It now goes to the Senate for debate. A similar proposal was narrowly voted down by the country's Senate in 2018 after being approved by the lower house.

Pro-life demonstrators dressed in blue and abortion rights activists clutching green handkerchiefs maintained vigils near the Congress in Buenos Aires as the bill was debated.

Days earlier, the president of the Argentine bishops' conference had called on lawmakers to "reflect" as they prepared to debate the bill. If it becomes law, Argentina would become the third country in Latin America to legalize abortion, following Uruguay and Cuba.

"We ask our legislators to take a second of reflection on what it means to respect life and the many persons who will be denied birth and who could enrich our world and fill us with hope," Bishop Óscar Ojea of San Isidro, conference president, said in a Dec. 9 message posted to social media.

Other bishops preached about the legislation in their homilies Dec. 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception.