Argentina inches closer to legalizing abortion

"We achieved it all together. This green wave is unstoppable. Senate there we go!!!!!"

Pro-choice activists react outside the Argentine Congress in Buenos Aires, on June 14, 2018, shortly after lawmakers approved a bill to legalize abortion. (CREDIT: EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-choice activists react outside the Argentine Congress in Buenos Aires, on June 14, 2018, shortly after lawmakers approved a bill to legalize abortion. (CREDIT: EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images)

Argentina’s lower house of Congress on Thursday passed legislation to legalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. It was a historic moment for activists who’ve been trying to legalize abortion for more than a decade.

After more than 22 hours of divisive debate,129 members of the Chamber of Deputies voted in favor of legislation while 125 voted against it and one abstained. Now the bill goes to the Senate, where it’s expected to get a vote in September. President Mauricio Macri, who doesn’t support legalizing abortion, said he wouldn’t veto the bill should lawmakers send it to his desk.

Should the measure pass, Argentina would be the most populous country in Latin America to legalize the procedure.

Credit: Guttmacher Institute, fact sheet as of March 2018
Credit: Guttmacher Institute, fact sheet as of March 2018

Residents in Ireland, a deeply Catholic country, voted to end its abortion ban less than a month ago. On Thursday, Pope Francis’ homeland, Argentina, moves closer to joining them.

It’s currently illegal to get abortions in Argentina except in cases of rape or when the life or health of the pregnant person is at risk. However, Salil Shetty, the secretary general of Amnesty International, told the New York Times “those exceptions are not actually honored, and what we see is a near total ban on abortions.” This isn’t to say people in Argentina don’t have abortions — they are just illegal and sometimes unsafe; 500,000 abortions are performed each year in the country, according to the National Ministry of Health.

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The vote could have only happened give the new, powerful Argentine feminist movement. Tens of thousands of people have protested in the streets wearing green, showing support for abortion rights. Marches spawned after the killing of a pregnant 14-year-old girl in 2015.

“The time for this struggle is now because as feminists, we have put ourselves in charge of making it a part of the public agenda,” Sandra Hoyos, organizer of the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe, and Free Abortions, told nacla before the vote. “But this struggle is not only about abortion, it is also a combination of intersecting demands connected by the struggle for our rights. It is also about the need for legislation against gender violence, the increased visibility of femicide, and the need for comprehensive sexual education.”

Since the historic vote, many people have taken to the streets in Buenos Aires to celebrate.

There were also celebrations inside Congress.