Buenos Aires, December 11
Argentina’s lower house of Congress approved a government-backed Bill to legalise abortion in the early hours of Friday morning, a big step forward for the legislation that could set the tone for a wider shift in conservative Latin America.
The draft law, which would provide for the legal termination of pregnancy up until the 14th week, was passed with 131 votes in favour, 117 against and 6 abstentions. It will now move up to the Senate, where an even tighter vote is anticipated.
The South American country is the birthplace of Pope Francis, and the abortion Bill comes as a number of countries in the predominantly Roman Catholic region are seeing drives to give women greater reproductive rights.
Following a mammoth debate that began on Thursday, the landmark Bill faced a vote on Friday morning, after protesters in favour and against the legislation had massed in the streets outside Congress.
“This is a fundamental step and recognition of a long struggle that women’s movements have been carrying out in our country for years,” Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, the government’s Women, Gender and Diversity minister, said after the vote.
“We are going to continue working so that the voluntary termination of pregnancy becomes law.”
Protesters supporting the Bill had gathered outside Congress wearing green scarves for an overnight vigil to await the news.
A similar vote to legalise abortion was narrowly defeated in a Senate vote in 2018 after passing the lower house.
Opposition groups, wearing light blue scarves, also took to the streets to demonstrate against the Bill.
“They don’t want to show what an abortion is,” said Mariana Ledger who was protesting against the Bill holding a cross and a dummy of a headless and bloodied foetus.
“This is it, and they don’t want to show it. They are hiding the truth, we are not foolish people.”
Amnesty International welcomed the lower house approval and called on the country’s Senate not to “turn its back” on women and help end clandestine abortions that risk women’s lives.
The initiative includes a parallel Bill which will face a separate vote to assist women who want to continue with their pregnancy and face severe economic or social difficulties.
Argentine law currently only allows the voluntary interruption of pregnancy when there is a serious risk to the mother or in the event of rape, although activists say many women often do not receive adequate care.
The country has seen a gradual rise in agnosticism in recent years. While the current Peronist government is strongly behind the Bill, that was not the case in 2018 during the conservative administration of Mauricio Macri.
“We are not in favour of abortion, we do not recommend or suggest it, we are against clandestine abortion that kills thousands of women,” Argentine actress and campaigner Carola Reyna posted on Twitter.
“We believe that it is a practice that should be regulated by the State, guaranteeing women’s health.” — Reuters