Argentina abortion vote: Senate approves historic landmark bill approving legal termination

The Senate voted 38-29 to give millions of women access to legal termination under a new law backed by President Alberto Fernandez. Margins were expected to be very small.

Large crowds of abortion rights activists and anti-abortion campaigners gathered outside the palace of Argentina’s National Congress to await the outcome, arriving early in the morning after an overnight debate. Proponents of the bill welcomed the news with loud enthusiasm – and, in some cases, tears of joy.

Gabriela Giacomelli, whose two sisters had an illegal abortion, described the scene as “very emotional.”

“We’ve been fighting for years,” Giacomelli said. “I see young people now, although I hope they never get bored, but if they do now they can do it safely.”

“Today, Argentina has taken a symbolic step in defending the rights of women, girls and people with fertility,” said Mariela Belsky, Amnesty International Argentina’s executive director and ambassador to the designated global women’s rights movement.

The law will legalize abortion in all cases up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. In Argentina, the third most populous country in South America, abortion is allowed only when the pregnancy results in rape or endangers a woman’s life or health.

In all other circumstances, abortion is illegal and carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Proponents of abortion hope Argentina’s decision will lead to similar moves in other Catholic-majority states in Latin America.

Belsky said the move sends “a strong message of hope across our continent” – that we can change against the criminalization of abortion and the occult, which poses serious threats to the health and lives of millions. The law has both been passed by the Argentine Congress today and the tremendous effort of the women’s movement to achieve this is inspiring for America and the world. “

In Latin America and the Caribbean, only Cuba, Uruguay, French Guiana and Guyana allow selective abortions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. In Mexico City and the Mexican state of Oaxaca, abortion is also available upon request, but is strictly prohibited in the rest of Mexico.

In contrast, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Suriname banned abortion in almost all circumstances. Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama only allow abortions if they maintain a woman’s health or help save her life.

While abortion remains largely prohibited or illegal across the region, there were approximately 5.4 million abortions in Latin America and the Caribbean between 2015 and 2019, according to data from the Gutmacher Institute. Her research found that countries that ban abortion access have the highest rates of unintended pregnancies and the lowest in countries where abortion is widely legal.
The anti-abortion campaign has reacted after the Senate voted in favor of a bill to legalize abortion on Wednesday.

‘Trouble numbers’

Abortion has long been a divisive issue in Argentina, and voters on both sides of the debate have called for galvanized activists.

Advocating abortion rights Green handkerchiefs were worn in the movement known as green gloves. Anti-abortion activists wear blue outfits – the color of the “Save Both Lives” movement, and the national flag.

Agostina Lopez, an anti-abortion activist and 20-year-old student who opposed the bill on Tuesday, told CNN before the vote that it was a complete loss of values ​​such as respect for life and women.

“Without the right to life, there is no other right,” he said, adding that if the law were passed, it would “send the wrong message that the killing of innocent children is no longer a serious matter.”

“Today, the country is in mourning,” Lucia Recovery, a volunteer with the anti-abortion youth movement “Frante Joven”, told CNN on Wednesday and the result “shows the failure of Argentina’s policy.”

“Argentina has always been a country full of life, family and unity,” he said. “The senators did not explicitly represent the people they represent. They did not represent the people of Argentina.”

Abortion-rights activists, leftists, and anti-abortion officials, on the right, rallied outside the Argentine congress in the Buenos Aires capital on Tuesday as legislators debated a bill to legalize abortion.
This vote is not the first time the issue has gone to the Senate. In 2018, during the conservative administration of former President Mauricio MacCree, an attempt to legalize abortion in Argentina passed through the lower house, but was briefly defeated in the Senate.

Br Bill Ninda in Stein, one of the four congressional women who introduced the 2018 bill, said she received Wednesday’s news with “great emotion,” adding that the decision was “a historic debt that democracy holds for the rights of our democratic women.”

Last month, the abortion rights movement received a major boost from the support of President Fernandez, who came to power last December.

In a speech recorded shortly before the inauguration, Fernandez “resolved to end the criminalization of abortion.”

Wearing a green tie – a symbol of the abortion rights movement – Fernandez said criminalizing the proceedings “punishes vulnerable and poor women.” And added that he was “the biggest victim” of Argentina’s legal system.

“The criminalization of abortion has done no good,” he said, adding that “it only allows abortions to take place in the sporadic number of troubled people.” “

Fernandez said more than 1,000 people have died from illegal abortions since 1983. There are no official statistics on the number of illegal abortions in Argentina, but the Ministry of National Health estimates that there are between 371,965 and 26,000 procedures per year.

According to an HRW report, approximately 40,000 women and children in Argentina were hospitalized in 2016 as a result of unsafe, secret abortions or miscarriages.
Catholic clergy held a mass during anti-abortion protests, as legislators outside Congress in Buenos Aires on Tuesday discussed its legalization.

Citing data from the National Health Ministry, the HRW report found that 39,025 women and girls were admitted to public hospitals for health issues arising from abortions or miscarriages, and more than 6,000 people aged 10 to 19 years.

Experts say the new law will allow 13- to 16-year-olds with normal pregnancies to access abortion services without a guardian. Doctors will still have the option to “sincerely object” to an abortion, although the law states that they will have to find another doctor to do so.

The bill also uses extensive language, acknowledging that not all pregnant women are identified as women.

Pregnant Mila Fernandez, a self-proclaimed transgender woman who reads “People with the potential to get pregnant” helped push Bill’s language, told CNN that the youth and LGBTQ community is “challenging the adult centralist and patriarchal power that is unjust and privileged.” Made permanent. ”

“By joining hands with trans men and non-bisexuals, we have conquered the rights that are theirs and ours today,” he said, adding that he believed the move would pave the way for additional reforms for trans people who have historically been sidelined. .

A divisive campaign

Outside Congress in Buenos Aires on Tuesday, lawmakers are debating its legalization, as nuns protest against the declaration of abortion.

The discussion of abortion has caused tension in a country with deep Catholic relations.

According to the CIA, the people of Argentina, the birthplace of Pope Francis, have seen a gradual increase in agnosticism in recent years, although 5% of Argentines are still identified as Roman Catholics.

The Constitution of Argentina provides government support for the Catholic Church and recognizes Roman Catholicism as the official religion. However, the 1994 amendment removed the requirement that the president should be an athlete.

In November, Francis weighed in on the debate, encouraging the anti-abortion group Majeres de las Villas to “move forward” with their work.

In a handwritten letter to Congresswoman and group mediator Victoria Morles Gorleri, Francis said that “the problem of abortion is not primarily of religion, but of the most important human conduct in any religious denomination.”

“Is it fair to take away human life to solve a problem? Is it fair to hire a hit man to solve a problem?” He wrote.

On Saturday, the Church of Argentina called on the Senate to vote against the bill, with local bishops presiding bishop Oscar Ojia and a staunch opponent of abortion saying “opposition was supported by medical science and law.” .

On Wednesday, the Senate also passed a testimonial bill that would strengthen the social and economic security of pregnant individuals facing economic hardship who want to continue their pregnancy.

The “1,000 Day Plan” will strengthen services from pregnancy to the first 1000 days of a baby’s life.