November 17, 2020

Two years after suffering a narrow defeat, Argentina’s feminist movement—known globally as the Green Wave—is poised to secure reproductive rights with the introduction of a new bill to legalize abortion.

Today, Argentinean President Alberto Fernandez presented a draft bill to legalize abortion. The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) celebrates this landmark legislation as a critical first step in securing the reproductive rights of Argentineans.

“For decades, courageous feminist activists have fought to secure abortion rights. We celebrate with them today as they once again have brought the country to a watershed moment for women’s rights,” said IWHC Senior Program Officer Shena Cavallo. “For too long, women’s rights have been violated and their lives lost because of callous restrictions on abortion care. We urge Argentinean lawmakers to heed the calls of the people and fulfill women’s human rights by passing this bill and legalizing abortion.”

Currently, abortion in Argentina is only permitted if the woman’s life or health is threatened, or in cases of rape. Yet, services are frequently unavailable even when legally permitted. In 2019, an 11-year-old that was raped by her grandmother’s boyfriend was denied an abortion, provided drugs to accelerate development of the fetus, and forced to undergo a C-section to deliver the unviable fetus.

The bill introduced today would legalize abortion and is part of a broader reproductive justice agenda by the Fernandez government. Additional measures to provide support and benefits for pregnant people are also expected to be debated this week.

Activists are cautiously optimistic that this is the year to finally enact change. Their hopes are buoyed by President Alberto Fernandez, who has been a vocal supporter of abortion rights, including in his March 2019 address to the nation, when he vowed to introduce legislation to legalize it. Efforts to introduce this bill, and ultimately legalize abortion, were delayed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The current bill builds on momentum from 2018, when the feminist movement launched a Green Wave—named for the green scarves donned by hundreds of thousands of activists across Argentina—that grabbed the world’s attention and turned public opinion in favor of abortion rights. In June 2018, the lower house of Congress passed a bill to decriminalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. However, it was narrowly defeated in the Senate, leaving the country’s restrictive policy intact.

“2018 changed the social and political landscape for abortion rights, but despite the success of feminist organizing and cross-sector movement building, the Green Wave was unable to discharge the status quo. Now, because of relentless effort of the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, Argentina is once again on the verge of momentous change. This year, we’re optimistic that the feminist movement will prevail,” said Cavallo.

Just 10 years ago, abortion remained clouded in stigma, and decriminalization unthinkable given the oppressive patriarchal culture and the overwhelming influence of the Catholic Church. But, thanks to the leadership of the National Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free abortion—including the work of IWHC grantee partner Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir Argentina (CDD Argentina) and activists from Centro de Estudios de Estado y Sociedad (CEDES) and Red de Acceso al Aborto Seguro (REDAAS)—the public and a growing number of policymakers now support abortion rights.

Unsafe abortion remains the leading cause of maternal mortality in Argentina. Policymakers were reminded of this in 2018 when a 24-year-old mother of two, Elizabeth, died from septic shock after using unsafe methods to induce an abortion less than a week after the Senate rejected the bill to decriminalize. The death of Elizabeth and others from unsafe abortion is particularly egregious considering how safe abortion—both surgical and medical—is when performed properly.

IWHC has supported the feminist movement’s efforts to decriminalize abortion in Argentina for nearly 20 years. We are proud to once again stand in solidarity with our longtime partners and the countless fearless activists as they continue the fight to secure reproductive rights for all.

Contact: Liza Kane-Hartnett; (+1) 917.498.3346

Photo: cobertura colaborativa #13J