Argentina's Senate voted against legalizing elective abortion in the early hours of Thursday morning, dashing the hopes of pro-abortion rights advocates in the predominantly Catholic country, homeland of Pope Francis.
The bill would have allowed abortions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion has always been illegal in Argentina: Currently, if a woman is found to have undergone the procedure (in instances other than rape or if the mother's life is in danger), she can be jailed for up to four years.
She added that the Senate had "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".
Deputies vote on the abortion bill on Thursday in Buenos Aires. The Health Ministry estimated in 2016 that the country sees as many as half a million clandestine abortions each year, with dozens of women dying as a result. We will continue to stand with women in Argentina. "Caring for life is the first human right and the duty of the state".
For months, hundreds of doctors in Argentina had staged anti-abortion protests, in one case laying their white medical coats on the ground outside the presidential palace.
Speaking to a delegation of the Forum of Family Associations at the Vatican, Francis denounced today's abortion culture and urged his hearers to accept human life as it comes from the hand of God. Feminist groups, in turn, have held demonstrations in support of the measure, often wearing green that symbolizes their movement or costumes based on author Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale".
Celia Szusterman, trustee of the United Kingdom board of Pro-Mujer and director of the Latin America programme at the Institute for Statecraft, told CNN that the vote was "a step backward for women's rights and women's health".
Amnesty International had told Argentinian politicians that "the world is watching", and Human Rights Watch said the country had a "historic opportunity" to protect women's rights.
Worldwide human rights and women's groups have been closely following the vote, and figures such as USA actress Susan Sarandon and "The Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood supported the pro-abortion cause in Argentina.
Rallies took place around the world in front of Argentine diplomatic missions, mainly in support of the bill.
In Brazil, the Supreme Court is set to consider whether current law - which allows terminating pregnancies only in cases of rape, fetal deformation or when the mother's life is in danger - is unconstitutional.
"We need to make an effort to resolve this", she said.
It is also legal in Mexico City.