Elective-abortion bill wins initial approval

The lower house of Argentina’s Congress on Thursday approved a bill that would legalize elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, sending the measure to the Senate. President Mauricio Macri has said that he will sign the bill if it is approved.

The measure has roused fierce passions in the homeland of Pope Francis, and the vote was tight: 129 to 125. Argentina currently allows abortion only in cases of rape or risks to a woman’s health.

Backers of the measure said legalizing abortion would save the lives of many women who turn to dangerous illegal abortions. The Health Ministry estimated in 2016 that there are as many as half a million clandestine abortions in Argentina each year, with dozens of women dying as a result.

The Roman Catholic Church and other religious organizations oppose the legislation, saying it violates Argentine law guaranteeing life “from the moment of conception.”

Efforts to ease or tighten abortion restrictions have repeatedly emerged across Latin America in recent years.

Neighboring Chile’s Constitutional Court last year upheld a measure that ended that country’s absolute ban on abortions. Cuba, Guyana and Uruguay permit early-term elective abortions, as does Mexico City.

— Associated Press

U.N. rights office calls for international probe

The U.N. human rights chief called Thursday for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, blaming civilian casualties on the actions of both India and Pakistan.

In its first report on the region, the office of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein detailed “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces.” The report was written without visits to the region as both sides refused to grant unconditional access to the investigators.

Zeid called for the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council to create a “Commission of Inquiry” to probe alleged abuses in the region.

India rejected the report, calling it a selective compilation of largely unverified information. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the proposal to establish a commission of inquiry.

India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir, which both claim in its entirety.

Also Thursday, a senior journalist and his two police bodyguards were killed in Kashmir, police and the journalist’s colleagues said.

Shujaat Bukhari was shot by unidentified gunmen as he left his office in Srinagar, the region’s main city. Bukhari was an advocate for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

— Associated Press

Sissi replaces defense, interior ministers: Egypt's president swore in a new cabinet after replacing his defense and interior ministers, a security shake-up that comes as the country is struggling to combat an Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula. It was not clear what prompted the move. Egypt launched a major offensive in February aimed at ending the insurgency in Sinai and fighting militants in the Western Desert.

Tunisian suspected of plotting ricin attack in Germany: German authorities have thwarted a plot by a Tunisian man who created the deadly toxin ricin and planned to use it in an Islamist extremist attack in Germany, prosecutors said. Sief Allah H., whose last name was not given in line with German privacy laws, was taken into custody during a raid on his apartment.

— From news services