Argentina abortion vote: Senate approves landmark bill allowing legal termination

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

Huge crowds of abortion rights activists and anti-abortion campaigners gathered outside the Palace of the Argentine National Congress to await the results, which came in the early hours of the morning after a nighttime debate. Supporters of the bill loudly saluted the news with cheers – and, in some cases, tears of joy.

Gabriella Giacomelli, who had an illegal abortion of her two sisters, called the scene “very emotional”.

“We’ve been fighting for years,” Giacomelli said. “I see the youth now, although I hope they never have to have an abortion, but if they do now they can do it safely.”

“Today, Argentina has taken an exemplary step forward to defend fertility rights for women, girls and people,” said Marilla Belsky, executive director of Amnesty International Argentina and an ambassador for the 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 currently permitted only when a woman rapes or endangers a woman’s life or health.

In all other circumstances, abortion up to 15 years in prison is illegal and punishable.

Abortion is expected to result in Argentina’s decision to spur similar movements in other Catholic-majority states in Latin America.

Belsky said the move sends a strong message of hope for our entire continent – that we can change course against criminalization of abortion and against Clandestine abortion, which pose serious risks to the health and lives of millions of people . The Argentine Congress is passed by today and the women’s movement’s huge effort to achieve this is an inspiration to America and the world. “

In Latin America and the Caribbean region, only Cuba, Uruguay, French Guiana and Guyana allow alternative abortions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. In Mexico City and the Mexican state of Oaxaca, abortions are also available upon request, but are severely restricted throughout Mexico.

In contrast, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Suriname ban abortions in almost all circumstances. Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama allow abortions only when it helps to preserve a woman’s health or save her life.

While abortion is largely prohibited or illegal in the entire region, between 2015 and 2019, approximately 5.4 million abortions occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its research has found that abortion rates are highest in countries that restrict access to abortions and lowest in countries where abortion is broadly legal.
The anti-abortion campaigner responds on Wednesday after the Senate voted in favor of a bill to legalize abortion.

‘Disturbing numbers’

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

Advocate abortion rights One movement wore a green handkerchief, known as the green wave. Anti-abortion activists dressed in blue – the color of the “save both lives” movement, and the national flag.

Anti-abortion activist and 20-year-old student Agostina Lopez, who protested against the bill on Tuesday, told CNN ahead of the vote that it represented “a complete loss of respect for life and values ​​for women”.

“None of the other rights are understandable without the right to life,” Lopez said, adding that if the law were passed, it would “give the wrong message that killing innocent infants is no longer a serious (matter).”

Abortion-rights activists, activists against left and abortion, rights, rally outside Argentina, Congress on Tuesday in the Capitol of Buenos Aires as lawmakers debated the bill legalizing 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 Macri, an attempt to legalize abortion in Argentina passed the lower house, but was badly defeated in the Senate.

One of four congressmen to introduce the 2018 bill, Brenda Austin, said she received Wednesday’s news “with great emotion”, noting that the decision is a “historic debt to the rights of women in our democracy.”

In recent months, the abortion rights movement received a huge boost with the support of President Fernandez, who came to power last December.

In a recorded address shortly before his inauguration, Fernandez “vowed to end the criminalization of abortion.”

Wearing a green tie – a symbol of the abortion rights movement – Fernandez said that doing the process unfairly punishes “weak and poor women”, adding that they are “the biggest victims of Argentina’s legal system” ” Were.

“There is no point in criminalizing abortion,” he said, noting that “only allowed abortion to occur in disturbing numbers.”

Fernandez said that more than 3,000 people had died since 1983 from illegal abortions. There are no official figures available for how many illegal abortions have occurred in Argentina, but the National Ministry of Health estimates that between 371,965 and 522,000 procedures are performed annually.

According to an HRW report, about 40,000 women and children in Argentina were hospitalized in 2016 as a result of unsafe, latent abortions or abortions.
Catholic priests staged mass protests during an anti-abortion protest as lawmakers debated its legalization outside of Congress in Buenos Aires on Tuesday.

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

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

The bill also uses inclusive language, stating that all people who cannot get pregnant are identified as women.

Camilla Fernandez, a self-identifying transgender woman who was instrumental in Bill’s push for language, wrote that “people with the potential to become pregnant,” CNN reported that the youth and LGBTQ community was an adult adult and patriarchal authority Were instrumental in challenging Who has privileges and injustice. ”

He said, “By joining hands with trans men and non-binary people, we won the rights that belong to them and us today.” He said he believed the move would pave the way for additional reform for trans people, who have historically been sidelined.

A divisive campaign

Outside Congress in Buenos Aires on Tuesday, lawmakers protested against the abolition of abortion as a debate on its legalization.

The abortion debate has led to tensions in a country with deep Catholic ties.

Argentina, the birthplace of Pope Francis, has seen a gradual increase in agnosticism in recent years, although 92% of Argentine people still identify as Roman Catholic according to the CIA.

The Constitution of Argentina supports the government for the Catholic Church and recognizes Roman Catholicism as the official religion. However, a 1994 amendment removed the condition that the president should be a Catholic.

In November, Francis weighed the debate, encouraging the anti-abortion group Mujeres de las Villa to “move forward” with his work.

In a handwritten letter addressed to congressman and group arbitrator Victoria Morels Golleri, Francis stated “the problem of abortion is not primarily a question of religion, but of human morality, the first and most important subject of any religious denomination.”

“Is it appropriate to end human life to solve a problem? Is it appropriate to appoint a hit man to solve a problem?” She wrote.

On Saturday, the Argentine church called on the Senate to vote against the bill, with Bishop Oscar Ojia, president of the local bishops’ conference, and a vocal opponent of abortion, backed by opposition “medical science and law”, Reuters reported . .

On Wednesday, the Senate also passed a complimentary bill, which would strengthen the social and economic safety net for pregnant individuals experiencing economic difficulties who wish to continue their pregnancy.

The “1,000-day plan” will strengthen services ranging from pregnancy to the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.


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