Argentina's House of Representatives approves bill legalizing abortion

bill legalizing abortion

Argentina's House of Representatives passed a bill that would legalize elective abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy.

The proposal was made by President Alberto Fernandez in response to long-sought demands from women's rights activists in Pope Francis' homeland.

Lawmakers in Argentina's lower house of parliament on Friday approved a bill that would legalize elective abortions into the 14th week of pregnancy.


The bill still needs the approval of the country's Senate in a debate expected to be held before the end of the year.

The majority approves the law---------------

The proposed bill was approved by 131 votes to 117 and six abstentions after a marathon debate that ran from Thursday to the early hours of Friday morning. Some of its supporters were opposition legislators.

Demonstrations in support of the repeal of the abortion law 

Pro-decriminalization protesters, who spent the night outside the Congress building in Buenos Aires, cheered and embraced each other as they listened to the Speaker read the results of the vote on screens. Many wore green face masks that became a symbol of their movement.

Hundreds of meters away from the parliament building, hundreds of opponents, dressed in light blue and carrying the national flag, denounced the result, some of them shedding tears.

Latin America has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Mexico City, Cuba and Uruguay are among the few places in the region where women can undergo abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy regardless of the circumstances.

Prosecuting those who are currently performing abortions

Currently, many women who have had an abortion in Argentina, as well as those who assist them in the procedure, could face prosecution. The government's policy of "eliminating the "unemployment" of women is a major challenge for women and children.

Before his election a year ago, Fernandez promised to press for voluntary and cost-free abortion.

While the bill passed the House of Representatives, expectations are less clear in the country's Senate. Two years ago, during President Mauricio Macri's more conservative administration, the Senate voted against a similar bill to legalize abortion after it was narrowly approved by the House of Representatives.

Before Thursday's debate, the Catholic Church appealed to lawmakers "again to think about what respect for life means," echoing the position of Pope Francis, an Argentine, that abortion is part of today's "culture of slander" that does not respect the dignity of unborn, vulnerable or elderly people.

According to the government, several thousand women seeking abortions have died in secret, unsafe procedures in Argentina since 1983, and some 38,000 women are hospitalized each year because of failed secret procedures.

The bill, which was passed on Friday, follows more than a decade of national campaigns for the right to free and safe legal abortion.

Silvia Lusepinato, one of the opposition lawmakers who supported the ruling party's initiative minutes before the end of the debate on the conference, said it was time to "finish writing rights and move on to equality."

"Every woman in a green scarf demands to decide, to those who never lower their arms: perhaps abortion is legal and free! Let it be the law!" said Luspinato.

But lawmakers from several parties argued that abortion would be a violation of the U.S. Convention on Human Rights, which they say takes precedence over the National Constitution, which states that the right to life must be protected by law, "in general, from the moment of conception."

Opposition legislator Gracia Camaño stated that legalizing abortion was "a lack of political capacity to solve the problems of society".

"Instead of solving the causes - lack of education, poverty and disadvantages - we suggest that the solution to the problem in women's private sphere sits, and worse, without any chance of men's opinion," she said.

If passed in the Senate, a more traditionally conservative house, abortions will be possible after the fourteenth week if the pregnancy is the result of rape or if it puts the person carrying the foetus at risk.

Persons under the age of 16 exercise their "rights through their legal representatives" and can seek "legal aid" in cases of "conflict of interest".

In the hope of winning more votes, lawmakers who supported the bill made last-minute changes to the provision that would allow private clinics where all medical workers oppose abortion rights to refrain from providing the procedure. However, these clinics would be required to refer women to another abortion facility.


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