Legislators in Argentina’s lower house passed a bill that would legalize abortion in most cases, responding to long-sought demands from women’s rights activists.
The bill, which needs the approval of the country’s Senate in a debate scheduled before the end of the year, allows abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy.
Backed by President Alberto Fernández, the bill was approved in a vote of 131-117 with six abstentions after a debate that lasted from Thursday until early Friday.
The push for reform in Argentina is part of a pro-abortion “green wave” sweeping across Latin America, symbolized by the green scarf that has become the instantly recognizable flag of the campaign throughout the region.
The lack of a legal abortion has condemned millions of adolescents across the region to carrying unwanted pregnancies to term. In Argentina alone, more than 7,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 gave birth to babies in 2016-2018, often as a result of rape, according to a recent report by the Argentine Network for Access to Safe Abortion.
“The approval of this bill will prevent us from being used as birthing machines and will allow us to be treated as human beings with the right to decide on our own body and destiny,” said Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, a prominent Argentine intellectual and author, before the project. of law was approved.
Submitting to layoff remains punishable by law throughout Latin America, where the strong influence of the Catholic Church has helped keep abortion illegal in most nations. Many women end up in prison for seeking medical assistance after a miscarriage.
Abortion is completely prohibited in El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras, while exceptions are made in cases of rape or to save the life of the woman in other nations such as Brazil or Chile.
In Latin America, abortion is legal only in Cuba and Uruguay, both small countries where the Catholic Church has less influence. Elective abortion is also legal in some jurisdictions in Mexico, as well as in the South American nation of Guyana and the French overseas department of French Guiana.
A change in the law in Argentina, the home country of Pope Francis, would send a strong signal in a region where the demand for legal abortions continues to grow.
The price of Argentine women is heartbreaking. Nearly 40,000 women were admitted to public hospitals for complications from illegal abortions in 2016 alone, according to a new report. Of this income, 6,400 corresponded to girls and adolescents from 10 to 19 years old.
At least 65 women died after undergoing clandestine interventions in the three-year period 2016-2018, about half of them in their 20s and nine of them only adolescents.
At least 73 women, as well as doctors and nurses, have gone to prison or been under temporary arrest on charges of illegal abortion in Argentina since 2012, pro-abortion activists say.
Two years ago, an earlier attempt to legalize abortion was rejected by the Senate after a 15-hour debate marathon despite opinion polls showing strong public support for the measure.
The Catholic Church lobbied strongly against the legislation, and the 2018 bill did not have the support of then-president Mauricio Macri.
But the setback gave new impetus to feminist activists in Argentina, and with the coronavirus pandemic consuming support for his administration, President Fernández is eager to deliver on the 2019 election promise to legalize abortion.
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