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An abortion-rights activist reacts outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires, on Thursday to news that the Senate voted to reject a bill that would have legalized abortion. "The senators who voted against this or abstained have therefore made a decision to agree on a system which forces women, girls and others who can become pregnant to undergo clandestine and unsafe abortions", said Mariela Belski, Executive Director of Amnesty International Argentina.

On Wednesday, demonstrators once more filled Buenos Aires' streets - with some supporters of the bill saying more than 1 million people may attend the planned vigil outside Congress.

But at the other end of the square, tears streamed down the faces of pro-abortion advocates, with many wearing the green scarves that symbolize their cause. "We celebrate democracy, federalism and the two lives, the woman's life and the life of the unborn child".

In mid-June, the lower house voted in favor by just 129 to 125 thanks in part to the nonetheless anti-abortion President Mauricio Macri's insistence in pushing the bill through parliament. But she said legalization advocates will still campaign in her country, which is one of the few in the world to ban abortion under all circumstances.

Currently, abortion is allowed in Argentina in only three cases, similar to most of Latin America: rape, a threat to the mother's life or if the foetus is disabled.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, said Argentina had a "historic opportunity" to protect the rights of women. According to the Guardian, an estimated 3,000 Argentine women have died as a result of illegal abortions since 1983, and between 45,000 and 60,000 women are hospitalized annually as a result of complications from illegal abortions.

Politicians must now wait a year to resubmit the legislation.

However, activists also say that the fact that the bill was even debated in the first place was a "victory" of sorts.

Argentine Senators announced the vote results after an impassioned debate that ran into the early hours of Thursday.

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"It will happen because that's the world - to increase rights and this is one of the fundamental rights that is still not available to women in Latin America", Szusterman said.

In Argentina, abortion is only allowed in cases of rape and risks to a woman's health.

Meanwhile, at the city's Metropolitan Cathedral, a "mass for life" was held in support of keeping laws unchanged.

The issue has bitterly divided Argentinians, "pitting conservative doctors and the Roman Catholic Church against feminist groups and other physicians", says The Sydney Morning Herald.

Supporters of the bill argued it would save lives, and the run-up to the vote sparked months of passionate debate and protest in the Catholic country.

A partition was set up to keep the green-decked pro-abortion contingent separated from the anti-abortion activists who donned baby blue.

"We're talking about the right to live in dignity, with autonomy, to be able to choose freely", added the 67-year-old mother of three.

Officials at about 300 private hospitals and medical facilities also denounced the legislation ahead of the Argentine Senate vote.


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