Abortion activists vow to press fight despite Argentina loss

Saul Bowman
August 11, 2018

Global reproductive rights advocates joined Argentinian women in mourning the bill's defeat, but credited the country's pro-choice movement with building momentum toward securing abortion rights in Argentina as well as across Latin America, where only Uruguay, Cuba, Guyana, and Mexico City allow abortion in early pregnancy.

Senators in Argentina voted down a bill Thursday that would have legalized abortion on demand until week 14 of a pregnancy.

Catholic and evangelical groups protested abortion with the slogan, "Argentina, filicide (killing one's children) will be your ruin".

This week, Amnesty International doubled down, taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times urging Argentina to legalize abortion, with the ominous warning: The world is watching.

Pro-life activists rally outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires.

Argentina is a predominantly Catholic country and is also the homeland of Pope Francis.

The lower house of Congress has already passed the measure and Argentine President Mauricio Macri says he will sign it if approved by the Senate. Argentine law guarantees life from the moment of conception.

But the Supreme Federal Tribunal recently held an extraordinary session to hear arguments on whether to allow elective abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. According to Argentina's Ministry of Health, at least 350,000 illegal abortions are carried out in the country each year. Uruguay and Cuba are the only countries in the region to have fully decriminalized abortion.

Worldwide human rights and women's groups have been closely following the vote, and figures such as USA actress Susan Sarandon and "The Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood supported the pro-abortion cause in Argentina.

Abortion is now a criminal offense in Argentina except in cases of rape, risk to the life of the mother, or when the baby is thought to be inviable outside the womb. But in June, he said getting an abortion to avoid birth defects is similar to Nazi eugenics programmes. Moreover, efforts to present abortion as a health emergency, calling clandestine abortions the primary cause of maternal death in the country, statistics show that this claim is simply false.

The lawmakers defeated the bill as demonstrators gathered outside.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, said that Argentina had a "historic opportunity" to protect the rights of women.

Tensions ran high during the legislative debate - which lasted well into the morning - with some members of the lower chamber being barred from the Argentine Senate and the vice president hurling insults at a senator. Chile had been the last country in South America to ban abortion in all cases, though several nations in Central America still have absolute prohibitions.

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