As the Argentine congress debates legalizing abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, the country's bishops called for a special time of prayer for life, especially for the unborn child.

“Prayer has a transformational power which will aid the discernment of those who have the responsibility to make a decision of such magnitude,” the Argentine bishop's conference stated.

The nation's legislature is considering a bill that would give women legal access to abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. 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.

President Mauricio Macri has encouraged “responsible” debate over the topic, while remaining personally opposed to the legislation, according to the Associated Press. He has said he would not veto the bill if it is passed by congress.

The congress' lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, is expected to vote on the bill in June.

The time of prayer began May 13 and will conclude June 3.

The bishops asked Catholics to “pray unceasingly” as individuals and in community in parishes, at Mass, as families, among friends, or at work.

The bishops' call for prayer is part of the #ValeTodaVida (every life matters) campaign.

To support this effort, they sent each parish suggestions to encourage prayer, including the prayer for life composed by Saint John Paul II, which will be prayed at all church services during this time.

“Prayer inspired and animated by the Spirit will allow us to confess with our understanding and our hearts that Every Life Matters,” the bishop's conference stated.

Finally, regarding the various pro-life marches, the bishops renewed their desire to accompany  those who participate and encouraged them to exercise “the right to freedom of speech proper to a democracy.”

They also expressed their strong desire that “every public demonstration be an opportunity to bear witness respectfully to love for life.”

Annually, between 370,000 and 522,000 Argentine women receive illegal abortions, the country's health ministry has estimated. Both procuring and performing abortions are criminal offenses in the country.

On March 25, around 150,000 people across Argentina marched for the “Day of the Unborn Child,” which honors the sanctity of all human life.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.