BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - A campaign to expand legal abortions in the homeland of Pope Francis is bitterly dividing Argentines - and increasingly even the profession that would be asked to carry them out.

Hundreds of physicians have staged anti-abortion protests as an abortion rights bill moves toward a vote in the Senate next week. While representing only a small fraction of Argentina's physicians, the Doctors for Life group has fueled a heated debate in the profession as a whole about the move to legalize elective abortions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Leaders of the prestigious Argentina Medical Society have endorsed the bill, but the equally august Academy of Medicine vehemently rejects it. An association of birth control specialists is strongly in favour; officials at about 300 private hospitals denounce the measure.