A Celebration of Green Handkerchiefs, Argentina Legalizes Abortion

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Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images

This Wednesday morning set the scene for the closure of one of the most important chapters for the feminist movement in Latin America.

After several hours of debate, the Senate of Argentina approved the bill of legal termination of pregnancy that allows free and legal access to abortion until the 14th week of gestation, according to CNN.

The vote was divided among 38 senators in favor, 29 against, one abstention, and four absences, after the Chamber of Deputies approved the bill on Dec. 11.

While the Senate’s decision gives President Alberto Fernandez the victory to fulfill one of his campaign promises, it is a massive achievement for Argentina’s feminist movement, one of the largest in the hemisphere.

“Forcing a woman to gestate is a violation of human rights,” said official Senator Ana Claudia Almirón of the northern province of Corrientes. “Without the implementation of comprehensive sex education, without the provision of contraceptives, and without a protocol for the legal interruption of pregnancy, the gurisas [girls] of Corrientes are forced to give birth at the age of 10, 11, and 12.”

According to Argentina’s Minister of Health, between 100 and 120 people go every day to the country’s public hospitals to attend to the consequences of clandestine abortions. This is one of the reasons that prompted the president to send the bill to Congress. “The legalization of abortion saves women’s lives and preserves their reproductive capacities, which are often affected by these unsafe abortions,” Fernandez said in November.

“In 2018 we did not achieve the law, but we did raise awareness of a problem: today there are women who are having abortions in precarious and unhealthy conditions,” Mariángeles Guerrero, a member of the national campaign for the right to legal, safe and free abortion, told the Spanish newspaper El País. “Abortion is no longer a taboo subject that is spoken about in a lowly manner and has begun to be a subject that should be debated politically to guarantee safe conditions in which to carry out these abortions.”

Once the law comes into force, any pregnant person will be able to access abortion in the health system, free and safe, until the 14th week of gestation, according to the BBC.

The new law also establishes the possibility of interrupting the pregnancy without a time limit for mothers whose pregnancy is the result of rape or for whom their lives are in danger, the only grounds allowed so far.

Those under 13 will be able to do so with the assistance of at least one parent or legal representative. However, those between 13 and 16 will only need authorization if the procedure compromises their health, and those over 16 will be able to decide for themselves.

The law also authorizes conscientious objection by physicians who do not wish to do the procedure but provided they promptly refer patients to other professionals who perform the abortion.