Argentina’s Legalization of Abortion is Truly Historic

by Aakash Sharma

Argentina’s Legalization of Abortion is Truly Historic

January 2, 2021

Activists are hopeful that the law's formalization in Catholic Argentina will impact other countries in Latin America.

This week, Argentina’s Congress sanctioned abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy, a ground-breaking resolution in a nation with some of the world’s most confining abortion laws. This development is historical, and its entanglements may be beheld beyond Argentina, in Latin America at large.

Women, activists, and advocates of the bill overwhelmed Buenos Aires Wednesday’s streets, supporting and crying following the verdict. At the same time, critics and opponents were seen staging their remonstrance against it.

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Pro-choice demonstrators wait for the result of vote on Wednesday in Buenos Aires, Argentina.Marcelo Endelli

A Win for Women's Rights and Autonomy

Ere the bill’s passing, abortions were only sanctioned in cases of rape or when the woman’s health was at serious risk. Activists have been agitating for years, calling for an upturn of this law in existence since 1921.

Two years ago, the country had virtually passed the abortion bill, which was narrowly blocked. The current bill beckons for greater liberty for women over their bodies and control of their procreative rights and grants more reliable healthcare for expecting women and young mothers.

A Monumental Bill

Before this, girls and women were compelled to turn to illicit and unsafe methods because abortion was against Argentina’s law. For girls and women of socio-economically disadvantaged credentials, the expanse of access to safe medical modes for abortion was even more prejudiced. According to Human Rights Watch, risky abortion was the preeminent reason for maternal mortality in the country.

The Catholic Church and the evangelical society exercised immense power and authority in Argentina and vigorously protested this bill’s passing. For many decades, following the Catholic Church’s credos, even prophylactics were prohibited in the country.

There have been innumerable cases that illustrate why this bill is quintessential for women in Argentina. In 2006, the family of a 25-year-old survivor of rape with unrelenting physical and mental disabilities appealed to the court for statutory permission for an abortion. Although the court conferred approval, the procedure was barred by a Catholic foundation that had solicited an injunction. The abortion could advance only after the family appealed the request, and the court allowed it.

Argentinian Lawmakers' Take on the Bill

The bill’s journey involved a marathon assembly, where 38 senators decided to favour the bill and 29 voiced their opinion against it with one abstention. The bill had been one of President Alberto Fernández’s campaign commitments where he had said he would reintroduce it after it was rebuffed in 2018.

According to a BBC story, Vilma Ibarra, legal and technical secretary for the presidency who delineated the law, was overwhelmed with emotion, saying: “Never again will there be a woman ruined in a clandestine abortion.”

But legislators who voted against the law proceeded to defend their stance. “The interruption of a pregnancy is a misfortune. It abruptly ends another developing life,” BBC reported Inés Blas, a legislator who voted against the law, as saying.

I'm Catholic, but I have to legislate for everyone. Today, we're a better society, which extends women's equities and ensures public health.

- Alberto Fernández, President of Argentina
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Supporters rallied outside Congress in on Tuesday as legislators prepared to vote.Credit...Flor Guzzetti

Demographic Impact in Latin America

Activists are confident that this law’s passage will produce an impact on additional countries in Latin America. Today, abortions are prohibited in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic. In Uruguay, Cuba, Guyana, and some parts of Mexico, women can demand an abortion, but only in exceptional cases. Each country has its rules on the number of weeks of pregnancy in which abortion is permitted. The nations also have different lengths of punishment and penalties given to girls and women, including prison time.

Women’s liberties activists have endorsed that despite the new law in Argentina, the mission is far from accomplished in the region. Anti-abortion assortments and their theological and political sponsors have endeavoured to stall any momentum in the process. Most lately, in Brazil, the traditionalistic and conservative president Jair Bolsonaro had pledged to veto any pro-abortion bills in the country.

When the announcement came that the bill had been passed, thousands in the country took to the roads. They praised while flowing green handkerchiefs, signifying the women’s movement in Argentina and ultimately in other Latin American nations — in what is described as ‘La Marea Verde‘ or the ‘Green Wave‘.

La Marea Verde- Symbol of Argentina's Pro-abortion Movement

Although it isn’t explicit when the pro-abortion campaign in Argentina became connected with green handkerchiefs, over the years, as the progress gained momentum and expanded across Latin America, the two have become intrinsically linked.

According to an evaluation piece by CNN journalist Jill Filipovic, green handkerchiefs have “become a symbol of freedom and citizenship” and are a symbol of women’s freedoms.

Walking the roads in Argentina anyplace, you see the young girls bearing the green handkerchiefs in their rucksacks as they go to class.

- Giselle Carino, CEO and Regional Director, International Planned Parenthood Federatio, Western Hemisphere Region

In 2018, when the Argentine Congress was to reconsider the bill to legalize abortion, the nation had seen thousands of women of all ages taking to the streets — with green handkerchiefs, green posters, and green flags, they commanded the passage of the bill.

Primal Campaigns

Ere that, pro-choice activists had competed for years to improve the abortion laws from 1921, selecting a green scarf as their symbol—used as a mask, head-scarf, or around the wrist. The green color signifies the struggle for women’s rights and liberty.

It is also said that the handkerchief as a representation of women’s rights and revolution was encouraged by the grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires in Argentina. They enrobed white kerchiefs to oppose the killings and kidnappings during the dictatorship.

Also Read: Marital Rape: A Crisis Worsened By COVID-19 Pandemic

Also Read: Virginity Tests And Its Worrying Growth In The 21st Century

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