Argentina Senate votes to legalize abortion

There were celebrations on the streets of Buenos Aires as Argentina's government became one of the first major Latin American countries to approve legalizing abortion.

"It changes everything for millions of women, this is health, this is public health, this is not a question of morals, it is not a question of ethics, it is a question of health and therefore thousands of lives will be saved."

The Senate voted 38-29 with one abstention early Wednesday (December 30) to allow it through to the 14th week of pregnancy.

The lower house had already approved it earlier this month.

Until now, Argentine law had allowed abortion only when there was a serious risk to the health of the mother or in cases of rape.

Pro-choice groups argued that criminalizing abortion harms women from the most vulnerable groups. Argentina's Health Ministry says more than 3,000 women died from illegal abortions from 1983-2018.

The ruling could set the tone for a wider shift in conservative Latin America where there are growing calls for greater reproductive rights for women.

Abortion is extremely rare in the region where the Catholic Church has held cultural and political sway for centuries.

Previously, it was allowed on demand only in Cuba, neighboring Uruguay and parts of Mexico.

Pope Francis, who is himself from Argentina, has condemned the decision.