Argentina passes landmark law to legalize abortion

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Protesters celebrate with green headscarves – the symbol for abortion rights activists.

Buenos Aires:

Wednesday in Argentina was one of only a handful of South American nations to legalize abortion after hours of debate in the Senate.

Hundreds of thousands of illegal abortions are performed each year in the nation’s 44 million, and campaigners who choose to vote have long urged authorities to end dangerous back alley terminations by legalizing the process.

“It will become law,” said Senate President Cristina Kirchner after more than twelve hours of debate.

Thousands of pro-choice activists cheered on the streets of the capital after the bill was passed with one abstention between 38 and 29.

It legalizes voluntary abortions at any stage up to 14 weeks of gestation.

Before the vote, demonstrators for freedom of choice and the fight against abortion had gathered in front of parliament despite fears of the coronavirus.

“This fight was born in the streets,” Silvia Saravia, a pro-choice activist, told AFP.

The vote overturned a similar one in 2018, which, although it also passed the House of Commons, ultimately went down in the Senate by 38 votes to 31.

South America has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. In Argentina, dismissals were only allowed in two cases: rape and danger to the mother’s life.

“Legislation for All”

The law was proposed by President Alberto Fernandez and passed by the Chamber of Deputies on December 11th despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church and Protestant Christians.

“I’m Catholic, but I have to legislate for everyone. Every year around 38,000 women are hospitalized for (secret) abortions and more than 3,000 people have died since the restoration of democracy (1983),” Fernandez said.

“The interruption of a pregnancy is a tragedy. It abruptly ends another developing life,” said Ines Blas, senator of the ruling coalition.

However, Senator Silvina Garcia Larraburu, also from the ruling coalition, said she would vote for the bill this time, even though she voted against in 2018.

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Love for all children

Despite measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands demonstrated on giant screens outside Parliament after the debate.

Pro-choice activists have been campaigning for years to change the 1921 abortion laws by using a green scarf as a symbol.

Anti-abortion activists recently started wearing light blue scarves.

“I know that in the heart of every senator lies the love for their children, their grandchildren and, above all, the hope that the children give us,” said anti-abortion protester Karina Muzaquio.

Outside the convention, anti-abortion protesters picked up crucifixes, prayed and put up displays simulating graves around a giant graphic image of a blood-stained baby.

Across the square, pro-choice protesters held signs that read, “We will never go underground again.”

On the previous Wednesday, the Argentine Pope Francis tweeted: “The Son of God was born rejected to tell us that every rejected person is a child of God.”

Although he did not specifically mention the vote, his comment has been interpreted by many as encouraging senators to vote against the bill.

Such changes have always been slow in Argentina: divorce was not legalized until 1987, sex education was introduced in 2006, gay marriage was approved in 2010, and a gender identity law was passed in 2012.

In Latin America, abortion is only legal in Cuba, Uruguay, and Guyana, and Mexico City.

It is banned in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, and women can even be sentenced to prison terms for miscarriage.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)

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