Argentina Legalizes Abortion in Historic Move for Women’s Rights

After years of protests and mobilization by pro-choice activists, Argentina has legalized abortion in a landmark moment for women’s rights in the mostly Catholic nation

Argentina legalizes Abortion

Photo: Twitter/@amnistiaar Tomás Ramírez Labrousse

After years of protests and mobilization by pro-choice activists, Argentina has legalized abortion in a landmark moment for women’s rights in the mostly Catholic nation. In the early morning hours on Wednesday. the Senate voted 38-29 to give millions of women access to legal terminations under a new law supported by President Alberto Fernández. The South American nation has a population of around 45 million and joins Cuba, Uruguay, French Guiana, and Guyana in allowing elective abortions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. In Mexico City and Oaxaca, abortions are also available but are severely restricted throughout the rest of Mexico.

Safe, legal and free abortion is law,” tweeted  Fernández who voiced support for legalization during his campaign. “Today we are a better society that expands rights to women and guarantees public health.

The landmark decision allows women to have an elective abortion up to 14 weeks with exceptions after that timeframe when the mother’s health is at stake or in cases of rape. In all other circumstances, abortion remains illegal and punishable by up to 15 years in jail. Another key point is that any public official or health worker who delays, obstructs, or refuses to perform an abortion in legally authorized cases may be criminally sanctioned and disqualified from practice.

“Today Argentina has made an emblematic step forward in defending the rights of women, girls, and people with reproductive capacity. It has also sent a strong message of hope to our entire continent: that we can change course against the criminalization of abortion and against clandestine abortions, which pose serious risks to the health and lives of millions of people. Both the law passed by the Argentine Congress today and the enormous effort of the women’s movement to achieve this are an inspiration to the Americas, and to the world,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

Before Wednesday, abortions were only allowed in Argentina when the mother’s health was at risk or in cases of rape, as is still the case in many other Latin American countries. Social media mobilization through #AbortoLegalYa and #NiUnaMenos is considered to have played a huge role in the decision following the rejection of the abortion bill in 2018.

Vilma Ibarra, Legal and Technical Secretary of the Presidency, helped draft the law and spoke with reporters after it passed. “Never again will there be a woman killed in a clandestine abortion,” she said, overcome with emotion, BBC reported.

President Fernández said that more than 3,000 people had died from illegal abortions since 1983, CNN reported though there is no official number for how many illegal abortions take place in Argentina. The National Health Ministry estimates that between 371,965 and 522,000 abortions are performed annually, according to CNN. In 2018, Argentina’s National Health Ministry reported 35 deaths resulting from abortion, including ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, medical abortion, and failed attempt of abortion, representing more than 13 percent of all maternal deaths that year, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report. The organization initially released a report on abortion in Argentina 15 years ago and found that women’s rights were continuously denied. “The consequence, we found, has been needless suffering, at times even death—a dreadful human cost preventable through the decriminalization of abortion,” they wrote.

In response to the Senate’s decision women took to the streets wearing green to show their support for the cause. Many holding signs of a hanger with the word “adios” to show the end of clandestine abortions. On Twitter, #EsLey began trending with women throughout the country voicing their gratitude for the women behind the “green wave” who tirelessly fought for legalization.

“After so many attempts and years of struggle that cost us blood and lives, today we finally made history,” protester Sandra Luján, a 41-year-old psychologist, told the Buenos Aires Times. “Today we leave a better place for our sons and daughters.”

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