Argentina approves historic bill to legalize abortion

Pro-choice activists wore the green handkerchiefs that have become a trademark of their movement. Image Source: Reuters

In a landmark decision to empower women and a major victory for abortion rights advocates, Argentina legalized abortions up to 14th week of pregnancy. The bill was passed in the Senate by a vote of 38-29 after a mammoth session. It had been approved by the Chamber of Deputies earlier in December 2020.

Before the bill was passed in the Senate, women and girls were authorized to abort only in cases when the woman’s health was at severe risk or when the woman was raped. Abortions were illegal and punishable by up to 15 years in jail if carried out under any other circumstances.

The South American, conservative, Catholic-dominated nation has one of the strictest abortion laws and women had to turn to illegal and highly unsafe procedures to terminate their pregnancy. The international non-governmental organization, Human Rights Watch has said that dangerous and unsafe abortion was the leading cause of maternal mortality in the country.

Women activists across the nation, who have campaigned for years for a change in the law, celebrated this ground breaking decision.

Mariela Belski, executive director of Amnesty International Argentina and an ambassador for the global women’s rights movement She Decides, said: “Today, Argentina has made an emblematic step forward in defending the rights of women, girls and people with reproductive capacity.”

After the bill was passed, the President of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez tweeted: “Today, we’re a better society, which widens women’s rights and guarantees public health.”

Politician Vilma Ibarra, who drafted the law, was overwhelmed with emotion as she spoke to reporters after it was approved. “Never again will there be a woman killed in a clandestine abortion,” she said, crying.

Apart from the legalisation of abortion, the Senators also voted in approval of a bill dubbed the “1,000-Day Plan.” This bill is aimed at providing better healthcare facilities for pregnant women and mothers of young children.

Activists are hopeful that this move will inspire other Latin American and Caribbean nations to follow suit. In the region, only Cuba, Uruguay, French Guiana and Guyana allow for elective abortions whereas El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Suriname have prohibited termination of pregnancies.

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