A 34-year-old woman has died in Argentina from trying to induce a miscarriage with parsley shortly after the nation's Senate rejected a monumental abortion bill. The news has caused angry protests from abortion rights activists, who are holding the Senate responsible for the tragic event.
Doctors say that the woman was admitted to hospital on Sunday after inserting parsley into her vagina, a common but dangerous at-home abortion treatment that stimulates blood flow in the uterus and can lead to massive internal bleeding and convulsions.
A study from 2003 found that ingesting plants to induce abortion involves a risk of severe disease and mortality.
In this particular case, where the parsley was applied topically, the process caused a serious infection, and the patient died just one day after doctors removed her uterus, according to Clarín, Argentina's largest newspaper.
The woman had reportedly survived two illegal abortions in the past, and she leaves behind a 2-year-old son.
The woman's family was joined by a crowd of protestors outside the Congress Palace in Buenos Aires, which recently voted down a measure that would have made abortion legal within the first 14 weeks.
After news of the woman's death went viral, the hashtag #ElSenadoEsResponsable, which translates to "the Senate is Responsible," began trending online.
"This would never have happened if abortions were legal," Sebastián Crespo, a member of the Professionals Network for the Right to Decide, an Argentinian organization of health workers, told Clarín.
Crespo added that if health centers in Argentina provided accurate information on women's health and access to contraception, this woman may never have resorted to multiple illegal abortions. And she still might be alive today.
Like many other Catholic nations, however, contraception and abortion in Argentina are divisive subjects.
Right now, abortion in Argentina is only legal for cases of rape, or when a mother's life or health is in danger. In all other cases, abortion is punishable by up to four years in prison.
In 2003, after decades of government opposition to the sale of contraceptives, Argentina unrolled a national program to distribute hormonal contraception and intrauterine devices. Yet doctors and hospitals across the country have been flouting these rules, often asking for spouse permission before prescribing contraceptives, or just refusing outright.
Much of this is because of the Catholic Church, which continues to prohibit all forms of birth control and considers abortion an "evil" act.
In fact, the Guardian has reported that the Catholic Church, headed by Pope Francis, is believed to have put pressure on politicians to vote down the recent legislation on abortion.
On the other hand, abortion rights activists argue that banning abortion does not stop abortions. It merely puts women's lives at risk.
There's quite a bit of research to back this argument up, too. Previous studies have shown that those countries with stricter abortion laws have higher abortion rates than countries with greater access to safe and legal abortion.
The same research shows that easier access to birth control also helps reduce abortion rates. A 2012 study, which looked at more than 9,000 women, found that when free birth control is provided, the number of abortions fell by 78 percent.
In Argentina, however, contraception and abortion access is highly limited. As a result, the Argentina Medical Society estimates that somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 women undergo illegal abortions every year, which represents an estimated 40 percent of all pregnancies.
These self-induced abortions are extremely dangerous, and in Argentina, they are estimated to result in more than 70,000 hospitalizations, according to the Telesur television network. As a result, the Human Rights Watch has called Argentina's abortion policies a threat to human rights.
"How many women and pregnant people will need to die [before lawmakers agree] that abortion must be legal, safe and free in Argentina?" asked the Network of Health Professional for the Right to Decide, a group of abortion-rights medical workers, after announcing the tragic news.
But advocates are not giving up. Before the abortion bill was shot down by the Senate, Argentine President Mauricio Macri had promised to sign it even though he disagreed with it personally.
With the Senate clearly torn on the issue (it failed 38 votes to 31 votes), activists are hopeful that this is a stepping stone and not a set back - especially with other Catholic countries, like Ireland, leading the way on reproductive health.
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