Argentina Senate to vote on bill legalizing abortion

BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s Senate is about to vote on whether the Catholic nation, the homeland of Pope Francis, could become the largest country in Latin America to legalize abortions, a move that will resonate widely in ‘ a region where the church has long worked power.

The measure would make it legal for women to terminate pregnancies of up to 14 weeks, and the fate seems to rest in the hands of a handful of senators who remain undecided or keep their position under surveillance.

Argentina’s lower house of Congress approved the bill earlier this month by 131 to 117 votes. It also approved a similar bill two years ago, albeit with a narrower margin of four votes, only to have it failed in the Senate, 38-31.

Abortion rights activists are optimistic this time around, largely because the bill was introduced by President Alberto Fernández and was one of his promises for the campaign, unlike in 2018, when Mauricio Macri, then president, said he was personally against legalization. is, but that he promised. not to veto the bill once it has been approved.

“We are optimistic, but not triumphant,” said Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Argentina’s Minister for Women, Gender and Diversity.

Mariela Belski, head of Amnesty International in Argentina, said the president, the vice president and many members of the executive were working to support the move. “The government has really done its homework.”

If the bill is passed and signed by the president, Argentina, along with Uruguay, Cuba and Guyana, will legalize abortion on request – instead of only in rape cases or if the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother’s health, just like the case now in Argentina.

The debate in the Senate is expected to begin late Tuesday afternoon and last for many hours, perhaps until early Wednesday morning.

Senators’ well-known voting intentions point to a virtual bond, according to an estimate by Amnesty International, which is likely to make the evening a nail-biter for opponents and supporters. Two senators who are expected to oppose legalization are unlikely to take part: José Alperovich is on leave after being accused of sexual assault and former president Carlos Menem has been admitted to hospital.

The 2019 election held by Mr. Fernández won, also brought some new legislators for pro-legalization in the Senate, but the vast majority of those who voted on Tuesday took part in the debate two years ago, which enabled the president and his allies to persuade those. senators on the fence are crucial to any victory.

To contribute to the potential drama, Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would cast the decisive vote in the event of a tie. Mrs. Fernández, also a former president, has long opposed the legalization of abortions, but said a resurgence of feminist activism in Argentina has largely led to young women taking to the streets in large numbers to support the measure. change of plan.

Pope Francis spoke out against the legalization action and publicly praised a group of women from impoverished neighborhoods for their activism against abortion.

Some of those who oppose the legalization have rejected the pressure exerted by the executive, saying the country’s focus should be on other issues at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has plunged an already weak economy deeper into uncertainty.

“The vote is very strict and we are very disgusted by how it has become a political game,” said Rev. Rubén Proietti, head of the Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches in the Argentine Republic. “We can not believe that this is a priority with all the problems that the country currently has.”

As abortion activists became more organized in the two years since the bill failed in Congress, so have those who oppose the practice. The Catholic and Evangelical churches, which worked independently two years ago to defeat the legalizing vote, teamed up this time.

“We talked from the beginning,” he said. Proietti said.

Activists from both sides of the issue plan to surround Congress overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday to make their voices heard. Barriers have been put in place to divide it and prevent conflict.

Both sides are planning to stay in for a long night as they await a decision that is likely to have major consequences in their own country and in Latin America.

“Evangelical leaders in several countries are vigilant about what will happen in the Senate,” he said. Proietti said. “What is happening in Argentina is regularly repeated throughout the region.”