BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentine President Alberto Fernández announced Sunday that he will send Congress a proposal to legalize voluntary abortion — an initiative that was rejected two years ago.

Dozens of female lawmakers rose to their feet in applause at the announcement, which came during a speech opening the congressional session.

Argentine law permits abortions in cases of rape or where a mother’s life is at risk. But even many women in those conditions find it difficult to obtain abortions.

“The current legislation on abortion is not effective…. It has condemned many women of scarce resources to turn to clandestine abortion practices, putting at risk their health and many times their lives,” Fernández said.

A measure to legalize elective abortions passed the lower house of Congress in 2018, but failed in the Senate after meeting heavy resistance from the Catholic Church and conservatives.

The Health Ministry estimated in 2016 that Argentina sees as many as half a million clandestine abortions a year.

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