Latin America’s pandemic tragedy as death toll nears one million

By Anthony Marina

PISCO, Peru (Reuters) -Hellen Ñañez has suffered enough tragedy for a lifetime. The Peruvian 28-year-old mother has mourned the death of 13 close relatives since the pandemic struck last year: uncles, cousins, a grandfather. Now her dad is fighting for his life.

On a recent day in a dusty cemetery in the Pacific port town of Pisco, Ñañez visited the graves of relatives lost to COVID-19.

“The truth is, I don’t have any more tears,” said Ñañez, who dropped out of studying psychology to work and help pay her father’s medical bills. “This is taking away our family. It’s taking away our dreams, our tranquility and stability.”

Ñañez’s story is a grim reflection of the tragedy unfolding in Latin America, a resource-rich but politically volatile region of some 650 million people stretching from Mexico to the near-Antarctic southern tips of Chile and Argentina.

The region has recorded 958,023 coronavirus-related fatalities, a Reuters tally shows, some 28% of the global death toll. It is set to hit the 1 million mark this month, which will make it the second region to do so after Europe.

But unlike wealthier Europe and North America, Latin American nations have lacked the financial firepower to keep people from sliding deep into poverty; underfunded healthcare systems have strained and inoculation programs have stalled.

Regional leaders from Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro to Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez and Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador have come under fire for their handling of the pandemic, while a string of health ministers have been fired.

“We Peruvians are dying, Mr. President. We are dying every day,” Miriam Mota, a relative of a coronavirus patient in Lima told Reuters, beseeching the country’s leader, Francisco Sagasti, to do more to help bring the crisis under control.

“There are no vaccines. There are no intensive care beds. There are no medicines. Please, for humanity’s sake, help us!”

Peru has officially confirmed 1.85 million COVID-19 cases and some 64,000 deaths, but that toll could be three times as high in reality, experts say. The country’s national death register has linked 171,000 deaths to the virus.

‘PEOPLE ARE FED UP’

Latin America’s crisis has been driven by regional juggernaut Brazil, which has recorded the most deaths globally after the United States and where right-wing President Bolsonaro has long railed against lockdown measures and backed unproven cures.

The emergence of virus mutations in the country, including the more transmissible P1 variant, has been linked to the severity of Brazil’s outbreak. It has also driven surges in infections in neighboring countries, including Uruguay and Bolivia.

Now there are signs that the pandemic, which has torn through regional economies and driven a spike in poverty, will have a longer-term ripple effect, stoking unrest, rattling industries and driving voters at the polls.

Colombia has been roiled by deadly protests over a now-shelved tax reform and poverty; Chile is moving towards a sharp tax hike on copper miners; Peru’s polarized presidential election race is being led by a socialist teacher who is a political outsider.

“People are fed up and obviously tired of everything that has happened lately,” Paula Velez said in front of a burned-out police station in Colombian capital Bogota, set on fire in the protests.

‘I DON’T WANT TO LOSE HIM’

Public health experts say Latin America has suffered an outsized hit from the pandemic, both in terms of health and growth, rattling fragile economies with high debt levels, steep inequality and where many work in less secure informal jobs.

Unlike North America, Europe or Asia, the region has also lacked the high-tech infrastructure to rapidly develop or manufacture vaccines.

A deal to produce the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Plc COVID-19 vaccine by firms in Argentina and Mexico has been stalled by manufacturing hold-ups, and many Latin American countries are reliant on insufficient supplies of Chinese and Russian vaccines.

A cottage industry has developed for wealthier Latin Americans to travel to Florida and Texas to get their shots. But for the less affluent, that is not an option.

“I have been looking for work for a year and a half and I can’t wait for my vaccine,” said Rio de Janeiro resident Marco Antonio Pinto, who like others in the city was disappointed last week when an immunization center quickly ran out of vaccines.

“They are playing with the people, thinking that we are animals. We aren’t animals: we are human beings. We pay taxes. We pay for everything,” he said.

Back in Peru, Ñañez is now fighting to save the life of her father, who has been in the intensive care unit of a hospital for more than two weeks, receiving medicine to reduce the ravages of the disease and on a mechanical respirator.

Ñañez, who has a two-year-old child, has turned to making soap at home and selling it on the street or in shops in Pisco, a coastal town set amid arid desert landscapes.

She said her bank loans had run dry and the family had incurred enormous debts of some 100,000 soles ($26,500) to buy medicines, medical oxygen – and funeral expenses. While hope was low, she was determined to battle for her dad.

“I’m not going to lose him. I don’t want to lose anyone else. My dad can’t leave me,” Ñañez said, sobbing, outside the hospital where she has come to check on the health of her father, who is in a coma.

“I have been standing here for 17 days in front of the hospital and I know that he is going to make it. I do not think that life can be so unfair if it has taken so much from me and now it also wants to take away my father.”

(Reporting by Anthony Marina in Pisco; Additional reporting by by Herbert Villarraga and Javier Andres Rojas in Bogota, Enrique Mandujano in Lima and Sergio Queiroz in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by Marco Aquino and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Rosalba O’Brien)

Brazilian firm to produce Russian vaccine without regulatory approval

BRASILIA (Reuters) – The Brazilian pharmaceutical company that plans to produce Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine will start making it next week even before health regulator Anvisa gives approval for use in Brazil, the company’s chief executive said on Friday.

União Quimica’s facility in São Paulo has been certified by Anvisa for good production practices and the vaccine will be made for export to countries that have approved it, said CEO and founder Fernando Marques.

“We intend to start production next week with a view to export,” Marques said. He said Sputnik V will not be used in Brazil until it is approved, but neighboring Latin American countries have approved the vaccine and want deliveries.

Anvisa last week held off approving imports of Sputnik V sought by Brazilian state governors amid a second wave of the virus that has killed more than 415,000 Brazilians.

In a setback for the Russian vaccine, the regulator’s technical staff warned of “flaws” in the development and clinical testing of Sputnik, said the data presented on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy was incomplete.

Marques on Friday told a Senate commission on COVID-19 that União Quimica expects to receive a batch of active ingredient from Moscow next week to start making the vaccine for export at its plant near São Paulo’s Guarulhos airport.

“So, the situation today is this: we will start production, obviously when we receive the active ingredient, and we will wait for the registration to make the local production available for use in Brazil,” he told senators.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund that is marketing Sputnik V developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute has plans to supply the vaccine to Latin American countries from Brazil.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Grant McCool)

Brazil’s P1 coronavirus variant mutating, may become more dangerous: study

By Pedro Fonseca

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil’s P1 coronavirus variant, behind a deadly COVID-19 surge in the Latin American country that has raised international alarm, is mutating in ways that could make it better able to evade antibodies, according to scientists studying the virus.

Research conducted by the public health institute Fiocruz into the variants circulating in Brazil found mutations in the spike region of the virus that is used to enter and infect cells.

Those changes, the scientists said, could make the virus more resistant to vaccines – which target the spike protein – with potentially grave implications for the severity of the outbreak in Latin America’s most populous nation.

“We believe it’s another escape mechanism the virus is creating to evade the response of antibodies,” said Felipe Naveca, one of the authors of the study and part of Fiocruz in the Amazon city of Manaus, where the P1 variant is believed to have originated.

Naveca said the changes appeared to be similar to the mutations seen in the even more aggressive South African variant, against which studies have shown some vaccines have substantially reduced efficacy.

“This is particularly worrying because the virus is continuing to accelerate in its evolution,” he added.

Studies have shown the P1 variant to be as much as 2.5 times more contagious than the original coronavirus and more resistant to antibodies.

On Tuesday, France suspended all flights to and from Brazil in a bid to prevent the variant’s spread as Latin America’s largest economy becomes increasingly isolated.

The variant, which has quickly become dominant in Brazil, is thought to be a large factor behind a massive second wave that has brought the country’s death toll to over 350,000 – the second highest in the world behind the United States.

Brazil’s outbreak is also increasingly affecting younger people, with hospital data showing that in March more than half of all patients in intensive care were aged 40 or younger.

For Ester Sabino, a scientist at the faculty of medicine of the University of Sao Paulo who led the first genome sequencing of the coronavirus in Brazil, the mutations of the P1 variant are not surprising given the fast pace of transmission.

“If you have a high level of transmission, like you have in Brazil at the moment, your risk of new mutations and variants increases,” she said.

So far vaccines, such as those developed by AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac, have proven effective against the Brazilian variant but Sabino said further mutations could put that at risk.

“It’s a real possibility,” she said.

(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca, writing by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Steve Orlofsky)

In Dominican Republic, proposal to ease abortion ban polarizes nation

By Ezequiel Abiu Lopez

SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) – As the abortion rights movement gains pace across Latin America, the issue is heating up in the Dominican Republic – one of the few countries in the region with a total ban on abortion – where activists were camped for an eighth day on Friday outside the president’s palace.

Latin America, where the Catholic Church has held cultural and political sway for centuries, has some of the most stringent abortion laws in the world. Argentina legalized the medical procedure in December and abortion rights activists hope it will give impetus to a regional movement.

In the Dominican Republic, a group of presidential advisors on Tuesday recommended a pending update of the country’s 19th century penal code – stalled since the end of the 1990’s over the issue – revise its stance.

The advisors recommended the code allow terminations when a woman’s life is in danger, the pregnancy is not viable or in cases of rape or incest – similar to the easing of abortion laws conservative Chile approved in 2017.

But the justice commission of the chamber of deputies rejected that on Wednesday, proposing instead that the penal code allow abortion only where the mother’s life is threatened.

Although the proposal is not yet scheduled for debate, it has sparked the ire both of religious groups that want to maintain the total ban and abortion rights activists who say abortion should be allowed in all three circumstances proposed by the presidential advisers.

Without change, abortion rights activists say, women will simply continue resorting instead to dangerous clandestine abortions that account for 13 percent of maternal deaths in the Caribbean country.

“We are the women dying, we are the women in danger,” said Margarita Mercedes, one of the dozens of activists that set up camp seven days ago outside the national palace in downtown Santo Domingo.

Their protest comes ahead of a march some Christian and civil society groups plan on holding in the capital on March 27 to show support for upholding the absolute ban on abortion.

“All three instances (in which the advisors suggested allowing abortion) are murder,” the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Francisco Ozoria, said on Thursday. “If they approve any one of them, whichever it is, it’s a murder.”

Christian groups already once thwarted an attempt to ease the country’s abortion ban, when they won a case at the Supreme Court challenging a new penal code approved by Congress in 2014 on the basis of errors in legal proceedings.

The update to the penal code was subsequently withdrawn and the debate over abortion died down – until now.

(Reporting by Ezequiel Abiu Lopez in Santo Domingo; Writing by Sarah Marsh in Havana; Editing by Alex Richardson)

North America sees drop in COVID-19 cases, Brazil surge worrying, says PAHO

By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA (Reuters) – New COVID-19 cases continue to decline in North America, but in Latin America infections are still rising, particularly in Brazil where a resurgence has caused record daily deaths, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned on Wednesday.

“We are concerned about the situation in Brazil. It provides a sober reminder of the threat of resurgence: areas hit hard by the virus in the past are still vulnerable to infection today,” PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said in a briefing.

She said cases are on the rise in nearly every Brazilian state, with Amazonas state especially hard hit.

A new variant first discovered late last year has led to a surge in new infections there that have overwhelmed the health care system, which continues to experience widespread shortages of medical supplies, including oxygen, she said.

Brazil needs “very strict” public health measures to curb the surge that is overwhelming hospital ICU wards, PAHO’s incident manager Sylvain Aldighieri said.

Brazil reported a record 1,972 deaths from COVID-19 in 24 hours on Thursday. Brazil has the second-highest total number of deaths behind the United States.

The United States and Canada continue to see a drop in new cases of COVID-19, PAHO said.

Cuba, the Bahamas, Saint Lucia and Guadeloupe are facing a rise in infections, and in South America Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile are reporting an increase in new cases, while Peru and Bolivia are finally seeing declines, PAHO said,

Vaccines have begun to arrive in Latin America through the COVAX facility led by the World Health Organization to provide equitable access to shots, with 28.7 million doses allocated to the region over the next three months.

But PAHO warned that vaccine supply is limited, due to manufacturing constraints and high demand, and some countries will have to wait several months until they receive theirs.

According to a Reuters tally, Latin America has recorded around 22.3 million coronavirus cases, and 704,000 deaths, almost double the death toll of Asia and Africa combined.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle, Editing by Franklin Paul and Lisa Shumaker)

Coronavirus crisis in Latin America made worse by poverty, inequality, U.N. agency says

By Fabian Cambero

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Latin America and the Caribbean countries in the throes of the coronavirus crisis will only see their problems made worse by festering inequality, poverty and an ailing social safety net, a United Nations agency said on Thursday.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said social unrest was on the rise across the region, a sign that immediate action was necessary to aid hard-hit countries struggling long before the pandemic hit.

“The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have spread to all areas of human life, altering the way we interact, paralyzing economies and generating profound changes in societies,” the report said.

Persistently high levels of inequality, the agency said, combined with a sprawling informal labor market that leaves workers without protection and a lack of effective health care coverage have made those problems worse.

Urban slums on the fringes of many of the region’s cities often lack access to basic services, mean many citizens found themselves unable to access food, water and healthcare necessary to confront the crisis.

Poverty meanwhile, has crept upward, while advances in reducing inequality have stagnated, exacerbating trends seen in the five years prior to the crisis.

During that period, Latin America and Caribbean economies grew an average of just 0.3% per year overall, while extreme poverty increased from 7.8% to 11.3% of the population and poverty, from 27.8% to 30.5%.

The report also said the prolonged closure of schools in the region could constitute a “generational catastrophe” that will only deepen inequality.

The pandemic has also brought a rise in mortality that could push down life expectancy in the region depending how long the crisis endures, the agency said.

There have been at least 21,699,000 reported infections and 687,000 reported deaths caused by the novel coronavirus in Latin America and the Caribbean so far.

​ Of every 100 infections last reported around the world, about 24 were reported from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Mexico publishes medicinal cannabis regulation, creating new market

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s health ministry on Tuesday published rules to regulate the use of medicinal cannabis, a major step in a broader reform to create the world’s largest legal cannabis market in the Latin American country.

The new regulation was signed off by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and will now allow pharmaceutical companies to begin doing medical research on cannabis products.

The cannabis reform taking place includes the recreational use of marijuana, and will create what would be the world’s biggest national cannabis market in terms of population.

The new medicinal rules state companies who wish to carry out research have to obtain permission from the Mexican health regulator, COFEPRIS, and this research has to be done in a strictly controlled and independent laboratories.

The regulation also sets rules for the sowing, cultivation and harvesting of cannabis for medicinal purposes, which would allow businesses to grow marijuana legally on Mexican soil.

Foreign weed companies from Canada and the United States have been looking at Mexico with interest. Many had delayed making investment decisions due to policy uncertainty and were waiting for the final regulation to be published.

Mexico’s lawmakers are also in the final stages of legalizing recreational use of marijuana, with the bill expected to pass in the next period of Congress.

The regulation comes several years after Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers must legalize use of cannabis.

The legislation marks a major shift in a country bedeviled for years by violence between feuding drug cartels, which have long made millions of dollars growing marijuana illegally and smuggling it into the United States.

(Reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Additional reporting by Raul Cortes Fernandez; Editing by Dave Graham)

Support for abortion jumped in Mexico last year, survey finds

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Support for abortion rose sharply in Mexico in 2020, according to a poll published on Monday, as attitudes towards the issue shift across Latin America.

In Mexico, a majority Roman Catholic nation, elective abortion is allowed only in the capital and the state of Oaxaca, but a growing pro-choice movement has been calling for a loosening of restrictions.

At the end of November, support for abortion stood at 48% in a survey, published by the news organizations El Financiero and Nación321 – a steep rise from the 29% recorded in March.

The poll, based on telephone interviews with 410 participants, asked if respondents agreed that “the law should permit a woman the right to abortion.”

Although Latin America has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws, Argentina legalized the procedure last month.

The move was a triumph for the women’s rights movement in a region where the Catholic Church has held cultural and political sway for centuries.

Several nations in Latin American ban abortion outright, including El Salvador, which has sentenced some women to up to 40 years in prison.

Until recently, only Communist Cuba and tiny Uruguay permitted elective abortions.

In most of Mexico, abortion is banned except under certain circumstances, such as rape. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has declined to take a position, saying wider legalization should be a matter for public consultation.

(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

WHO vaccine scheme risks failure, leaving poor countries no COVID shots until 2024

By Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The global scheme to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries faces a “very high” risk of failure, potentially leaving nations home to billions of people with no access to vaccines until as late as 2024, internal documents say.

The World Health Organization’s COVAX program is the main global scheme to vaccinate people in poor and middle income countries around the world against the coronavirus. It aims to deliver at least 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021 to cover 20% of the most vulnerable people in 91 poor and middle-income countries, mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

But in internal documents reviewed by Reuters, the scheme’s promoters say the program is struggling from a lack of funds, supply risks and complex contractual arrangements which could make it impossible to achieve its goals.

“The risk of a failure to establish a successful COVAX Facility is very high,” says an internal report to the board of Gavi, an alliance of governments, drug companies, charities and international organizations that arranges global vaccination campaigns. Gavi co-leads COVAX alongside the WHO.

The report and other documents prepared by Gavi are being discussed at Gavi’s board meetings on Dec. 15-17.

The failure of the facility could leave people in poor nations without any access to COVID-19 vaccines until 2024, one of the documents says.

The risk of failure is higher because the scheme was set up so quickly, operating in “uncharted territory”, the report says.

“Current risk exposure is deemed outside of risk appetite until there is full clarity on the size of risks and possibilities to mitigate them,” it says. “It therefore requires intensive mitigation efforts to bring the risk within risk appetite.”

Gavi hired Citigroup last month to provide advice on how to mitigate financial risks.

In one Nov. 25 memo included in the documents submitted to the Gavi board, Citi advisors said the biggest risk to the program was from clauses in supply contracts that allow countries not to buy vaccines booked through COVAX.

A potential mismatch between vaccine supply and demand “is not a commercial risk efficiently mitigated by the market or the MDBs,” the Citi advisors wrote, referring to multilateral development banks such as the World Bank.

“Therefore it must either be mitigated through contract negotiation or through a Gavi risk absorption layer that is carefully managed by a management and governance structure.”

Asked about the documents, a Gavi spokesman said the body remains confident it can achieve its goals.

“It would be irresponsible not to assess the risks inherent to such a massive and complex undertaking, and to build policies and instruments to mitigate those risks,” he added.

The WHO did not respond to a request for comment. In the past it has let Gavi take the lead in public comments about the COVAX program.

Citibank said in a statement: “As a financial advisor, we are responsible for helping Gavi plan for a range of scenarios related to the COVAX facility and supporting their efforts to mitigate potential risks.”

SUPPLY DEALS

COVAX’s plans rely on cheaper vaccines that have so far yet to receive approval, rather than vaccines from frontrunners Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna that use more expensive new mRNA technology. The Pfizer vaccine has already been approved for emergency use in several countries and deployed in Britain and the United States, and the Moderna vaccine is expected to be similarly approved soon.

COVAX has so far reached non-binding supply agreements with AstraZeneca, Novavax and Sanofi for a total of 400 million doses, with options to order several hundred million additional shots, one of the Gavi documents says.

But the three companies have all faced delays in their trials that could push back some possible regulatory approvals to the second half of 2021 or later.

This could also increase COVAX’s financial needs. Its financial assumptions are based on an average cost of $5.20 per dose, one of the documents says.

Pfizer’s vaccines costs about $18.40-$19.50 per dose, while Moderna’s costs $25-$37. COVAX has no supply deals with either of those firms. Nor is it prioritizing investment in ultra-cold distribution chains in poor countries, necessary for the Pfizer vaccine, as it still expects to use mostly shots which require more conventional cold storage, one of the Gavi documents says.

On Tuesday a WHO senior official said the agency was in talks with Pfizer and Moderna to include their COVID-19 vaccines as part of an early global rollout at a cost for poor countries possibly lower than current market prices.

Other shots are being developed worldwide and COVAX wants to expand its portfolio to include vaccines from other companies.

Rich countries, which have booked most of the currently available stocks of COVID-19 vaccines, are also planning to donate some excess doses to poor countries, although is not clear whether that would be through COVAX.

FINANCIAL PRESSURE

To meet its target of vaccinating at least 20% of people in poor countries next year, COVAX says it needs $4.9 billion in addition to $2.1 billion it has already raised.

If vaccine prices are higher than forecast, supply is delayed or the additional funds are not fully collected, the facility faces the prospect of failure, the documents say.

So far Britain and European Union countries are the main donors to COVAX, while the United States and China have made no financial commitments. The World Bank and other multilateral financial institutions are offering cheap loans to poor countries to help them buy and deploy vaccines through COVAX.

The facility is issuing vaccine bonds which could raise as much as $1.5 billion next year if donors agreed to cover the costs, one of the Gavi documents says. COVAX is also receiving funds from private donors, mainly the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

But even under the best financial conditions, COVAX could still face failure, because of disproportionate financial risks caused by its complex deal-making process.

COVAX signs advance purchase contracts with companies on vaccine supplies that need to be paid for by donors or receiving countries that have the means to afford them.

But under clauses included in COVAX contracts, countries could still refuse to buy pre-ordered volumes if they prefer other vaccines, or if they manage to acquire them through other schemes, either faster or at better prices.

The facility could also face losses if countries were not able to pay for their orders, or even if herd immunity were developed too quickly, making vaccines no longer necessary, the Citigroup report said. It proposed a strategy to mitigate these risks including through changes in supply contracts.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by Peter Graff)

Argentine lawmakers take up government-backed bill to legalize abortion

By Nicolás Misculin

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -Argentine lawmakers began debating a bill to legalize abortion on Thursday as protesters rallied outside Congress waving trademark green scarves in support of the legislation that could set the tone for a wider shift in Latin America.

The draft law, which would provide for the legal termination of pregnancy up until the 14th week, is backed by center-left President Alberto Fernandez. It is expected to be narrowly approved by congressional deputies before moving up to the Senate, where an even tighter vote is anticipated.

The South American country is the birthplace of Pope Francis, and Thursday’s debate comes as a number of countries in the predominantly Roman Catholic region are seeing drives to give women greater reproductive rights.

A spokesman for the ruling party said a debate of almost 30 hours was expected in the lower house, meaning that the bill – which could undergo modifications to achieve broad consensus – would be likely to face a vote on Friday morning.

“”We are convinced that this offers a concrete answer to an urgent and structural public health problem,” said Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, the government’s Women, Gender and Diversity minister, as she opened the session in the Chamber of Deputies.

“The time has come to stop looking the other way.”

Protesters supporting the bill began gathering outside Congress with their green scarves on Thursday, planning an overnight vigil to await news of what they hope will be an approval this time round after a similar vote to legalize abortion was narrowly defeated in 2018.

Opposition groups, who wear light blue scarves, have also pledged to take to the streets to demonstrate against the bill.

The initiative includes a parallel bill which will face a separate vote to assist women who want to continue with their pregnancy and face severe economic or social difficulties.

Argentine law currently only allows the voluntary interruption of pregnancy when there is a serious risk to the mother or in the event of rape, although activists say many women often do not receive adequate care.

The country has seen a gradual rise in agnosticism in recent years. While the current Peronist government is strongly behind the bill, that was not the case in 2018 during the conservative administration of Mauricio Macri.

“We are not in favor of abortion, we do not recommend or suggest it, we are against clandestine abortion that kills thousands of women,” Argentine actress and campaigner Carola Reyna posted on Twitter.

“We believe that it is a practice that should be regulated by the State, guaranteeing women’s health.”

(Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Tom Brown)