Argentina’s lower house approves draft legislation legalizing abortion

On Friday, lawmakers in Argentina’s lower house approved a bill that would, in most cases, legalize abortion and respond to demands made by women’s rights activists.

The bill, which must be approved by the Argentine Senate in a debate expected before the end of the year, makes it possible to have abortions until the 14th week of pregnancy.

With the support of President Alberto Fernández, the bill was approved in a vote 131-117 by 6 abstentions after a debate that lasted from Thursday to early Friday morning.

The Roman Catholic Church in Argentina appealed to lawmakers before the vote on “a second of reflection on what respect for life means”, repeating the assertion by Francis, an Argentine, that abortion is part of today’s “waste culture” that does not respect the value of the unborn, weak or elderly.

Green and blue flags outside the congress

Protesters supporting the bill had gathered outside Congress with green scarves for a night watchman to wait for the news. A similar vote to legalize abortion was narrowly defeated in 2018.

Opposition groups, wearing light blue scarves, also took to the streets to demonstrate against the bill.

The initiative contains a parallel bill that will face a separate vote to help women who want to continue with pregnancy and face serious economic or social difficulties.

Argentine law currently only allows voluntary termination of pregnancy when there is a serious risk of maternity or rape, although activists say many women often do not receive adequate care.

The country has seen a gradual increase in agnosticism in recent years. While the current government is strongly behind the bill, that was not the case during the conservative administration of Mauricio Macri 2018.

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

On Thursday, dozens of members of a group called the National Campaign for the Right to Free and Safe Legal Abortion gathered near Congress and followed the legislators’ debate on large video screens set up outside the building. They wore green, in contrast to abortion activists who often wear blue.

Abortion rights and anti-abortion protesters gathered in separate, designated areas under strict security. They wore masks as part of efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19.

( Jowharwith AP and REUTERS)