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Argentina legalizes abortion after green light from conservative-majority Senate

Argentine senators adopted, Wednesday, December 30, a text legalizing abortion in the South American country, very divided on the issue. Argentina thus joins Cuba, Uruguay, Guyana, Mexico City and the Mexican state of Oaxaca, the only ones to authorize voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion) without conditions in Latin America.

Already approved by the deputies on December 11, the text authorizes abortion up to fourteen weeks of pregnancy. Until now, abortion was only allowed in cases of rape or danger to the mother’s life, under a 1921 law. According to the government, between 370,000 and 520,000 illegal abortions are performed. every year in the country of 44 million people, where 38,000 women are hospitalized for complications from clandestine abortions.

According to the president of the upper house, the former president (2008-2015) and current vice-president Cristina Kirchner, 67 senators out of 72 participate in the session. The vote took place around 4:30 a.m. on site (8:30 a.m. in Paris), Wednesday, after long hours of debate. Thirty-eight senators approved the text, twenty-nine opposed it and one senator abstained. Despite the pandemic, several thousand Argentines gathered near the Parliament to express their support or their rejection of the text, with a force of banners, music and giant screens transmitting the debates live.

Read also: Anti-abortionists determined to prevent abortion legalization

Doctors will be able to oppose their “conscientious objection”

The deputies adopted the text on December 11 by 131 votes in favor, 117 against and 6 abstentions, but the Senate is deemed to be more conservative: in 2018, it rejected a similar text by seven votes in a country still very Catholic and deeply divided on the question.

Read also, before the parliamentary debates: Legalization of abortion again under consideration in Congress

To try to convince the senators to vote for the text, the latter includes the possibility for doctors to assert their “Conscientious objection”. At the same time, another bill created an allocation of “1000 days” intended to support mothers during their pregnancy and the first years of the child, in order to reduce abortions for economic reasons. “This law does not oblige to abort, it does not promote abortion, it only gives it a legal framework”, declared during the debates Sergio Leavy, senator member of the majority.

Argentina legalizes abortion after green light from conservative-majority Senate

“I am a Catholic, but I must legislate for everyone”

Center-left president Alberto Fernandez, in power since the end of 2018, had promised during his campaign to resubmit the legalization of abortion to parliamentarians. “I am Catholic, but I must legislate for everyone, it is a very serious public health issue”, argued recently the Head of State. But all the senators of his majority are not in favor of the text.

Argentine Pope Francis, hitherto silent on the matter, posted a message on Tuesday on Twitter in which he emphasizes that “The Son of God was born rejected to tell us that every rejected person is a child of God. He came into the world as a child comes into the world, weak and fragile, so that we can accept our weaknesses with tenderness ”. Although not explicitly referring to the debate, the message was interpreted by the Argentinian press as a rejection of the law.

The Catholic Church and Evangelical Protestants in Argentina, opposed to the text, have called for “Unite to implore respect and care for the life to be born”, with a day of fasting and prayer. The pro-abortion, rallied around the color green, have made an intense campaign on social networks around the “Campaign for a legal, safe and free abortion”, which brings together more than 300 feminist organizations already mobilized in 2018.

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