Argentina’s long struggle for access to legal, safe and free abortion will finally become a reality this Thursday, as President Alberto Fernández signs a bill guaranteeing access to the procedure into law.
The Peronist leader is due to host an event marking the promulgation of the initiative into law this afternoon at the Museo del Bicentenario in Buenos Aires, situated next to the Casa Rosada. A host of activists, government officials and campaigners are set to attend.
Argentina’s Congress voted on December 30 to legalise elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, with the Senate backing the bill two years after rejecting a similar measure.
With the change, the country will become the largest in Latin America to allow legal access to the procedure, following in the footsteps of its regional peers Cuba, Uruguay and Guyana. Terminations are also legal in parts of Mexico, including the capital Mexico City and the state of Oaxaca.
The new legislation represents "the state's understanding of what reproductive autonomy means in women's lives," said María Teresa Bosio, the president of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (“Catholics for the Right to Decide).
Activists, led by the Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal Seguro y Gratuito (“National Campaign for the Right of Legal, Safe and Free Abortion”) group, have been campaigning for abortion rights for more than a decade. It helped to mobilise tens of thousands of young women, creating the so-called ‘marea verde’ (“green tide” or “green wave”) that created momentum behind the call for reform.
Up until now, under the terms of a law passed in 1921, abortion in Argentina has only been allowed in the event of rape or danger to the life of the woman.
The government estimates that since 1983, more than 3,000 women have died from clandestine procedures, of which more than 370,000 take place every year.
Nevertheless, the new law – which allows for medical professionals to adopt a stance of conscientious objection – poses new challenges to the feminist movement.
"We will have to continue fighting to guarantee access to this right in such a heterogeneous territory with conservative actors who have also grown in strength and power," Bosio explained.
"As Catholics we believe that the law is a recognition of the idea that women are not just born to be a mother and that sexuality does not have to be tied only to reproduction, but to pleasure," said the campaigner.
– TIMES/AFP [with reporting by Sonia Avalos]