For years women’s movements in Argentina fought for the right to abortion. Now the Senate of the South American country has voted for legalization – against the opposition of the church.
By Anne Herrberg, ARD Studio Buenos Aires
It was before sunrise when the cheers broke out in front of Argentina’s National Congress. Tens of thousands hop, jump, hug, tears flow. After a marathon session of more than twelve hours, the Senate said yes to legalizing abortions. “I can’t say anything, unbelievable, that’s just insane,” says one woman. For another, this day is historic, as she agitated tells us: “Today we made history, there is nothing more to say, we have won a right and our struggle will continue”.
30 years of struggle for legalization
The streets in front of the Congress are a sea of green headscarves. It has become the symbol of the struggle to legalize abortion. Up until now, abortions have been a criminal offense – except after rape or if the mother’s health was at risk. The law that has now been passed allows a time limit solution: interventions are allowed up to the 14th week, free of charge in the public health system.
Argentina’s women’s movement has fought for this for 30 years. A similar initiative failed two years ago at the conservative Senate. This time the law was introduced personally by President Alberto Fernandez.
Senator Sergio Leavy from the ruling party voted no in 2018. Today he has come to the realization that it is not about him or longing convictions, but about the situation of many women, he says. “I know that when women want to have an abortion, they do it secretly. Those who have no money go to some healer, to someone who has no practice. The question is: do we give these women the opportunity to undergo the procedure safely Health care system or are we pushing them into a practice that robs them of life or of childbearing forever? “
Clergy warn against the law
Leavy comes from Salta, in the province in the conservative north, the influence of the Catholic as well as the Evangelical Church is particularly great – and with it the pressure on the senators. Opponents of the law also kept vigil in front of Congress during the vote – in light blue.
Also present: a huge paper mache fetus spattered with fake blood and many clergy like Father Javier, who warns of the law: “What is at stake is that Argentina approves its first national genocide. Millions of Argentinians will be exterminated with this law. You Germans know very precisely what it means for a state to release part of its population for extermination. “
Signal effect for Latin America?
Shortly before the vote, Pope Francis spoke out against the law on Twitter. The activist Vero Gago believes that his home country Argentina will become the first large country in Latin America to legalize abortions sends a signal to the entire region: “This is of great importance at a time when we are experiencing a fundamentalist right , together with the church trying to turn back the clock and restrict rights. We get news from women’s movements around the world how important our struggle here is for their own struggles. “
It is estimated that there are between 300,000 and half a million clandestine abortions per year in Argentina. Around 40,000 women are hospitalized annually with complications after illegal abortions. According to Amnesty International, this is the leading cause of maternal mortality in the South American country.