The Argentine Senate approved in the early hours of Wednesday a project that allows free access to abortion until the 14th week of gestation, which was driven by the Government of Alberto Fernández and was a historical claim of feminist groups.
The text, which had already been approved by Members on 11 December last, received votes in favour of 38 senators, 29 against and one abstention, following a 12-hour session and during which thousands of people, for or against the law, concentrated outside Congress pending the outcome.
The project represents a strong change from the current situation – in which abortion is only allowed legally if the woman suffered a rape or is at risk of her life – and authorizes the conscientious objection of doctors who do not want to participate in abortion, but provided that they quickly refer patients to other professionals who carry it out.
As the outcome of the vote was known, the crowds of people gathered at Parliament’s doorstep inside the green tide – as the groups supporting legalisation are known – shouted with joy and emotion, in contrast to the disappointment of the heavenly or collective «provida», who refused their approval.
The second and final
This is the second time in history that a project to legalize the voluntary termination of pregnancy is debated in the Argentine Congress, after in 2018 a similar text but prepared by a civil platform, managed to be approved by the deputies but not by the Senate.
A year later, the current representative, Alberto Fernández, promised in his election campaign to push for a new law, with the main purpose of reducing clandestine abortions, which risk the lives of women, especially those who cannot afford private clinics where, despite being illegal, they practice it safely.
The final sanction on this project achieved today represents, following political negotiations that led to more support than two years ago, a success for the president after a difficult 2020 marked by the coronavirus pandemic and the inability to emerge from the severe recession that has dragged the country since 2018.
While a tight result or even the possibility of a tie was expected, until the last moment there were talks to expand the advantage, with promises of slight changes to the project. And finally some undecided or positioned against the text decided to change their minds and vote in favour.
The discussion of senators
Regardless of being legislators of the ruling Front of All; of the main opposition group, Together for Change, or other minor formations, the issue of abortion has generated voices for and against in major political groups.
«Let us take care that if this law does not come out today, we will be responsible for the deaths of women by clandestine abortions, because the state is responsible,» Official Senator Anabel Fernández Sagasti said at the session, convinced that women must live «free, fearless and with the power to decide.»
For his part, Luis Naidenoff, of Juntos por el Cambio, added that «it is not a minor issue» to guarantee all Argentine women access to «public health».
Against the other hand, coalition partner Silvia Elías de Pérez asserted that «there is no right that is more protected in law, both in national and international regulations, than the right to life of the child».
«Since he begets himself, he is a human being,» José Mayans, block chief of the ruling front and one of the voices against him, said in the same way.
«The decline of a state is when neither the president, nor lawmakers, nor the judiciary respect the constitution,» he added, and advanced that this is an «unconstitutional and unexplained» law, which will bring «many judicial questions.»
Safe, legal and free
Once the law enters into force, any pregnant person will be able to access abortion in the health system, free of charge and safely, until the 14th week of gestation, and beyond that period in the two grounds already allowed so far.
Children under the age of 13 may do so with the assistance of at least one parent or legal representative, while those between the age of 13 and 16 will only need authorization if the procedure compromises their health and those over 16 will be able to decide on their own.
The law also advocates the State’s responsibility to implement the Comprehensive Sex Education Act and also updates prison sentenceswhich will be repressed by people who cause abortion or consent to it being done outside the permitted time limit and cause.