Thousands of anti-abortion protesters, many of them mobilised by Catholic or evangelical religious groups, demonstrated on Saturday across Argentina against a government-backed new bill to legalise abortion.
The largest group congregated in Buenos Aires before the National Congress building, which is expected in the coming week to begin debating legislation on a topic that bitterly divides the nation.
Marchers around the country carried signs with slogans like "Save Both Lives!" and "March for the Unborn."
Father Jorge Gómez, executive director of Aciera, the Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches of Argentina, called it a "spontaneous outpouring," despite the rally being organised beforehand.
Argentines who support a woman's right to choose also called for people to take to the streets. The National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion urged backers to "paint Argentina green in coming weeks" – to wave green handkerchiefs as a symbol of women's rights.
Gómez, however, said it was inappropriate for the draft legislation to be taken up amid the ongoing pandemic and at a time when "Argentine society needs unity to solve structural problems such as poverty."
The event's organisers reported that they respected all the necessary prevention measures, "with masks and keeping their distance", in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The Argentine people are pro-life. Now we will see what the lawmakers do, if they respond to the president or to the people," one activist who preferred to remain anonymous told AFP. "I know there are unexpected pregnancies, I respect women's rights. But I don't recognise abortion as a right."
This will be the ninth time in majority-Catholic Argentina – the homeland of Pope Francis – that a bill to legalise abortion has been presented in Congress.
On the last occasion, in 2018, it gained approval in the lower house Chamber of Deputies but was rejected in the Senate.
This will be the first time such legislation originated in the country's Executive branch via a proposal from President Alberto Fernández.
Fernández has said the new legislation would guarantee "that all women have access to the right to comprehensive healthcare."
Under a law first passed in 1920, Argentina permits abortions only in cases of rape or danger to the life of the mother.