On Wednesday, Argentina’s Senate voted to legalize abortion, a first for a big country in Latin America, and a victory for women’s rights campaigners gained over the visceral disapproval of the Catholic Church. Abortion is quite rare in a region where the Church has carried cultural and political sway for centuries. Earlier, it was permitted on-demand only in Communist Cuba, tiny Uruguay, and parts of Mexico.
The fiercely polemical vote was held at 4:00 a.m. after a marathon argument that prevailed through the night. In a vote of 38-29 with one abstention, the Senate supported the government proposal to permit terminations through the 14th week of pregnancy. The lower house had already backed it this month. As the effect was read out, a crowd of thousands of people who had reinforced the bill burst in cheers outside the Senate building in Buenos Aires, waving the green flags that illustrated their campaign. Green smoke rose in the dawn light beyond the crowd.
ARGENTINA JUST MADE HISTORY.
Abortion is now officially legal, safe and free for all women. I have tears in my face rn,women in my country have fought for so long to obtain rights of this kind. This is a HUGE step for us,what an amazing day. EL ABORTO ES LEGAL?#AbortoLegal2020 pic.twitter.com/efcEUMMf5n
— valen ? (@noproofnotmuch) December 30, 2020
“This has been a struggle for many years, many women died. Never again will there be a woman killed in a clandestine abortion,” said Vilma Ibarra, the writer of the rule and lawful and technical secretary for the presidency, who sobbed as she spoke to reporters after the outcome.” We did it sisters. We made history. We did it together. There are no words for this moment, it passes through the body and the soul,” tweeted Monica Macha, a lawmaker with President Alberto Fernandez’ center-left verdict coalition.
Fernandez himself responded moments later: “Safe, legal, and free abortion is the law. Today we are a better society that widens privileges for women and guarantees public health.”But Pope Francis – himself an Argentinian – echoed the Church’s opposition in his own tweet sent on Tuesday before the Senate debate: “The son of God was born discarded to tell us that every person discarded is a child of God.”
NEW – Argentina becomes the first country in Latin America to legalize abortion after a landmark vote.pic.twitter.com/obFbMJrLiv
— Disclose.tv ? (@disclosetv) December 30, 2020
After the vote, thousands of the bill’s opponents circulated, brushing away tears as a speaker from a temporary stage told them: “We are noticing a collapse of a life. But our beliefs do not alter. We are going to make ourselves heard. One of them, Sara de Avellaneda, told Clarin newspaper: “I came because I had to be here. We are not hidden. Not everything is a green tide. This rule is unconstitutional and its execution is not going to be easy.”The ruling could put the tone for a broader change in conservative Latin America where there are increasing demands for greater reproductive rights for women.
“Adopting a rule that legalizes abortion in a Catholic country as big as Argentina will energize the toil to assure women’s rights in Latin America,” said Juan Pappier, a senior Americas researcher at Human Rights Watch. Although there will surely be opposition, I think it’s fair to indicate that, as it happened when Argentina legalized same-sex wedding in 2010, this new rule could have a domino influence in the region.”
Till now, Argentine law had permitted abortion only when there was a grave risk to the health of the mother or in circumstances of rape. Pro-choice groups claimed that outlawing abortion hurts women from the weakest groups. Argentina’s Health Ministry states more than 3,000 women died from illicit abortions from 1983-2018. The Catholic Church claims that abortion infringes the freedom to live.