Bill legalizing abortion in Argentina’s hometown

The Senate of Argentina has passed a law prohibiting abortion in Pope Francis’ homeland early Wednesday after a 12-hour marathon session, a victory for the women’s movement that has been fighting for the right for decades. The vote means that abortion will be legalized until the 14th week of pregnancy, and will also be legal after that time in cases of rape or life-threatening. This will have consequences for a continent where the procedure is largely illegal.

The measure was adopted by 38 votes to 29, with one abstention, after a sitting that began late Tuesday.

Demonstrations as Senate Debates on Abortion Bill in Buenos Aires
Anti-abortion protesters respond after the Senate passed an abortion bill in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 30, 2020.


It has already been approved by the Chamber of Deputies of Argentina and has the support of President Alberto Fernández, meaning the Senate vote was the last hurdle.

“Safe, legal and free abortion is now the law,” Fernandez tweeted after the vote and note that it was an election promise.

“Today we are a better society that expands women’s rights and guarantees public health,” he added.

Demonstrations as Senate Debates on Abortion Bill in Buenos Aires
Protesters in favor of legalizing abortions respond after Senate passed an abortion bill in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 30, 2020.


Argentina is the largest country in Latin America to have legalized abortions, and the vote has been closely watched. With the exception of Uruguay, Cuba, Mexico City, the Oaxaca State in Mexico, the Antilles and French Guiana, abortion remains largely illegal throughout the region.

Outside the Senate, pro- and anti-abortion rights activists have gathered, with supporters of the bill wearing the color green representing their movement for abortion rights. Supporters waved green flags when Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who led the debate, announced the outcome as he shouted “legal abortion in hospital” while the measure was adopted.

Argentina has so far punished women and those who help them abort. The only exceptions were the case of rape or the health risk of the mother, and activists complain that these exceptions are not respected in some provinces.

Hours before the Senate session began on Tuesday, the pope weighed in and tweeted, “The Son of God was born as an outcast to tell us that every outcast is a child of God. He came into the world. then every child in the world, weak and vulnerable, so that we can learn to accept our weaknesses with tender love. ‘

A previous abortion bill was passed by Argentine lawmakers in 2018, but this time it is backed by the center-left government. However, the outcome of the latest vote was still considered uncertain. This was partly due to the fact that the political parties, including the ruling Peronist movement, gave their legislators freedom to vote as they pleased. Two of the 72 senators were absent, and 43 of the remaining 70 senators were men.

Argentina’s feminist movement has been demanding legal abortion for more than 30 years and activists believe the passage of the bill could be a watershed in Latin America, where the influence of the Roman Catholic Church has long dominated.

“Our country is a country with a lot of contradictions,” said Ester Albarello, a psychiatrist with a network of health workers who support the bill, who was among the protesters outside the congress building. ‘It is the only one in the world that has brought members of its genocide dictatorship to court with all the guarantees. But we still have no legal abortion. Why? Because the church is with the state. ‘

Also outside the legislature, a group calling its members ‘defenders of the two lives’ erected an altar with a crucifix under a blue tent.

Opponents of the bill, separated by a barrier of its pillars, watched uncomfortably as the vote unfolded.

“These politicians do not represent the majority,” said opponent Luciana Prat, an Argentine flag covering her shoulders. “In all the polls, people are against this.”

Supporters said the bill seeks to eradicate the clandestine abortions that have caused more than 3,000 deaths in the country since 1983, according to government figures.

In addition to allowing abortions within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, the law will also stipulate that a pregnancy can be legally terminated even after that period if it was the result of rape or if the person’s life or integral health was endangered.

This will allow conscientious refusal to participate in an abortion for health workers and private medical institutions, against which all doctors are against the procedure. They will be expected to refer the woman to another medical center. Nor could conscientious objection be claimed if the life or health of a pregnant woman was endangered.