Terminations up to the 14th week of pregnancy have now been legalised in Argentina. In an area which holds the world’s most restrictive abortion laws, this is a huge step forward for the sexual and reproductive rights of women.
The new law replaces the 1921 ruling stating abortion is illegal, with exceptions given for cases of rape and when the mother’s life is at risk. Centre-left President Alberto Fernández made the legalisation of abortion one of his campaign promises, stating: “I’m Catholic, but I have to legislate for everyone”.
Considered a matter of public health, around 38,000 women a year were being taken into hospital having been given abortions under secretive and often unsanitary conditions. Two years ago, the bill was two votes away from being legalised, a huge blow to women’s rights activists across the country. After promising to decriminalise abortion and ensure access to comprehensive healthcare, Fernández sent the bill to National Congress on November 17th.
The next day, a pañuelazo (a march with green scarves) was organised in the streets, compelling the Senate to pass the bill with urgent attention. The “green wave” women’s movement has been campaigning in Argentina for many years, asking for broader reproductive rights under the guarantee of public health. Thousands of pro-choice activists rallied outside Congress on the 30th December and the 38 to 29 victory was met with elation.
Senators also voted for the “1,000-Day Plan”, a ruling which would see strengthened healthcare services and support for mothers and new-borns in the first 1,000 days from conception.
However, the Catholic Church, a hugely influential establishment within Argentina, has opposed the bill. Worries have arisen surrounding the implementation of the practice, as many believe individual doctors and practices will struggle with personally-held beliefs and morals, meaning some areas will have more access to termination services than others.
Having previously voted against the bill in 2018, Senator Silvina García Larraburu came close to tears when delivering a speech backing it: “My vote is in favour of free women, of women who can decide according to their own conscience”.
Women’s Minister Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta commented that Argentina were “making history” and it is hoped neighbouring countries will bring similar rulings into their own law in the near future.