A new abortion law has been adopted in Argentina, following a marathon debate of over twelve hours in the Argentine Senate. The new law makes abortion legal until the 14th week of pregnancy. It represents a great victory for the pro-abortion movement in predominantly Catholic Argentina.
Under the previous abortion law, abortion was only allowed if a woman was a victim of rape or had serious health risks due to pregnancy. Now that the new law has been passed, every woman may, at her own request, apply for an abortion without meeting any conditions.
It is a groundbreaking moment for women in Argentina, says Maite Karstanje. She works for the Argentine womens rights organisation ELA and followed the debate in Buenos Aires. “There was a loud scream when the mood came through,” she describes in the CCEit Radio 1 News. “Many people stayed all night in the square near the Congress Hall. Everyone is very happy.”
Public health issue
Around 38,000 Argentine women end up in hospital every year after complications caused by an illegal abortion, according to the Argentine government. Thousands of them have died over time. President Fernández speaks of a serious public health issue. Karstanje: “The fact that the law is now passed is the result of a struggle that has been waged by Argentine women for decades.”
In 2018, a majority of Congress also voted for the new abortion law, but at that time the Senate stopped it. Even now it was uncertain until the last moment whether the law would come through, says Karstanje. In the predominantly Catholic country there are also many opponents of abortion. They went out to the streets to demonstrate against the law. “The long-term psychological consequences are not taken into account,” says one of the anti-abortion protesters.
Supporters of the pro-abortion movement celebrate and the anti-abortion protesters are also heard in Buenos Aires:
In the run-up to the vote, the Catholic Church called on the senators to vote against the wider abortion rules. Pope Francis, born in Argentina, wrote on Twitter: “Every discarded child is a child of God.”
Ultimately, the law was passed in the Senate with 38 votes to 29. With this, Argentina is ahead of neighbouring countries in Latin America. Until now, only in Cuba, Uruguay and Mexico City abortion was legal.
Karstanje: “Although at the moment there are mainly conservative governments in power, I think that this can be an impetus for womens rights in the region. Its a euphoric moment.”