Argentina Becomes First Major Country In Latin America To Legalise Abortion
Argentina has officially legalised abortion, making it the largest country in Latin America to do so, and only the third on the South American continent overall.
A historic bill, which now will permit pregnancies to be terminated in the first 14 weeks, was approved by the country’s senate in a 39 to 29 vote, with one abstention.
Argentinian president Alberto Fernandez, who supported the bill, said:
Today we are a better society that expands rights to women and guarantees public health
The president, who pledged to make abortion rights a public health issue rather than a police matter, previously said in an interview that more than 3,000 women have died from unsafe abortions since the country introduced its current democratic system in 1983.
Latin America has historically been one of the most conservative regions of the world when it comes to abortion rights, largely due to the influence of the Catholic church, which opposes abortion in all cases. Campaigners have pointed out that the legalisation of abortion in Argentina is especially significant as it is the home country of Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic church.
The new law is the result of more than five years of protests and campaigns led by women’s rights activists in the country. The #NiUnaMenos (#NotOneLess) protests began as spontaneous marches against gender violence, before growing to encompass pro-choice demands.
An earlier attempt to decriminalise abortion in 2018 failed due to pressure from the Catholic church. Campaigners keeping vigil outside the congressional palace in Buenos Aires set off flares and fireworks in celebration after the result of this latest vote was announced early on Wednesday morning.
Mariela Belski, Amnesty International’s executive director in Argentina, told The Guardian:
Both the law passed by the Argentine congress today and the enormous effort of the women’s movement to achieve this are an inspiration to the Americas.
Argentina has sent a strong message of hope to our entire continent: that we can change course against the criminalisation of abortion and against clandestine abortions, which pose serious risks to the health and lives of millions of people.
Argentina now joins Guyana, which became the first South American country to decriminalise abortion in 1995, and Uruguay in taking a more liberal stance on reproductive rights. Other regions of Latin America, such as Cuba and some parts of Mexico, also permit legal abortions, while some, such as the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, continue to have some of the strictest abortion laws in the world. In El Salvador, women face prison sentences of up to 35 years if they are found to have terminated a pregnancy.