Argentina on Wednesday became the largest nation in Latin America to legalize elective abortion. 

After a marathon 12-hour session, the country’s Senate passed the law after midnight by a 38-29 margin just two years after a similar initiative fell short by a narrow vote. 

The legislation, which President Alberto Fernández has vowed to sign into law, guarantees abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy and beyond that in cases of rape or when a woman’s health is at risk. 

The legislation also allows health professionals and private medical institutions to opt-out of the procedure. But they will be required to refer the woman to another medical center. The conscientious objection also cannot be claimed if a pregnant woman’s life or health is in danger.

Abortion is already allowed in some other parts of Latin America — such as in Uruguay, Cuba, and Mexico City.  It is completely prohibited in El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Honduras. 

Pope Francis had made a last-minute appeal against the bill. The pope who is revered throughout his homeland and has good relations with Fernández’s Peronist government, weighed in, tweeting: “The Son of God was born an outcast, in order to tell us that every outcast is a child of God. He came into the world as each child comes into the world, weak and vulnerable so that we can learn to accept our weaknesses with tender love.”

Following the vote, the local Roman Catholic bishop’s conference issued a statement saying the measure “will deepen even further the divisions in our country” and said it lamented that the country’s leadership was distant from the dominant pro-life sentiment across the nation.

The group Pro-Life Unity said the date would be remembered: “as one of the most macabre days in recent history.”

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