Feminist victory in Argentina: House of Representatives passes law decriminalizing abortion

After 30 years of campaigning, the decriminalization of abortion is close to becoming a reality

June 15, 2018 by Peoples Dispatch
Members of the National Campign for the Right of Legal, Safe and Free Abortion when the results were announced. Photo Credit: Lisbeth Montaña

Close to one million Argentinians gathered outside Congress in the capital Buenos Aires on Wednesday, June 13, to show their support for the Bill being discussed in the House of Representatives that would decriminalize the ‘voluntary interruption of a pregnancy’ for up to 14 weeks. The mobilization of the green-scarfed multitudes lasted from early Wednesday to the morning of Thursday, June 14, when after 22 hours of debate, the House concluded the vote with 129 legislators supporting the bill and 125 opposing it. Now, the bill will go to the Senate, where it is expected to pass easily.

The mobilization, #13J, on Wednesday saw participation of diverse sectors of the Argentine society: social movements, feminist collectives, political parties, high school classes, families, Catholic groups and trade unions. For many, the most important victory lay in the fact that hundreds of thousands of people came out in support of the law, with an especially large number of young people taking part. Thousands set up camps outside Congress, enduring freezing temperatures while waiting for the results. Leading up to the day of voting, several high school student groups carried out occupations of their institutions in support of the bill.

Supporters of the bill participated in an all-night vigil outside Congress. Photo credit: Lisbeth Montaña

Monica Menini, a member of Catholic Women for the Right to Decide, was present during the mobilization and commented on the context of the debate around abortion in her province of Salta: “The political power in Salta is allied with the Catholic Church. It is a province that since  Governor [Juan Manuel] Urtubey took office, has obliged high schools to give Catholic classes. This type of education has meant that in public schools, there is no comprehensive sex education. This affects the prevention of adolescent pregnancy in a province where 3,500 girls below the age of 25 are hospitalized due to abortions and 40 cases of forced maternity of girls from 10 to 15 are recorded per year. It is also the province with the highest rate of femicides in Argentina.”

“As Catholic women, we say that it is not our religion because religious fundamentalism does not create dignified conditions for women. There are 7 legislators from Salta voting against abortion but we, the women of Salta, are on the streets and I can assure you that the Catholic women of Salta abort every day.”

Monica Menini, Catholic Women for the Right to Decide. Photo Credit: Lisbeth Montaña

Daniela, an activist from Frente Popular Dario Santillán, was also present in the mobilization: “I am transgender. We, as transwomen, have been supporting this struggle as we understand the demand for autonomy to make decisions about our own bodies. Many of us have died in clandestine places as well. We support the demand that women no longer should be forced to resort to clandestine abortions, but can do it in a healthy place which they are entitled to. It is always us poor women who come from the countryside and who don’t have the financial resources, who are denied information. So we have been active in supporting this campaign.”

The supporters of the legislation have highlighted the fact that the Bill is above all about guaranteeing access to safe and legal abortions to those who need it the most. This measure means avoiding the deaths and injuries that occur due to the thriving of a very profitable and dangerous clandestine abortion market.

Latin America is one of the continents with the strictest laws on abortion. These laws have not deterred abortions on the continent; they have just made the procedure more dangerous and difficult to access for the most marginalized women. In recent years, however, the issue has been an increasingly prominent part of the agenda of feminist, women’s, LGBTQ, and social movements across the continent. The victory in Argentina is a landmark moment for those involved in such struggles across Latin America.

Activists celebrating on Thursday morning after the bill was passed in the House of Representatives. Photo Credit: Lisbeth Montaña

Here are some of the slogans from the historic struggle:

“Educación sexual para decidir, anticonceptivos para no abortar, aborto legal para no morir”

Sex education to decide, contraception to avoid abortion, legal abortion to not die

“Aborto legal en el hospital”

Legal abortion in the hospital

“Luchar por la compañera le gusta a usted, le gusta a usted, y ahora que estamos juntas y ahora que sí nos ven, abajo el patriarcado que va a caer, que va a caer! arriba el feminismo que va a vencer, va a vencer! ”

We like fighting with the female comrades!  And now that we are together, and now that they see us, smash the patriarchy because it’s gonna fall, it’s gonna fall! Forward feminism because it will win, it will win!

“Si el papa fuera mujer, el aborto sería ley”

If the Pope were a woman, abortion would be legal

“Alerta, alerta, alerta que camina, la lucha feminista por América Latina! Y tiemblan, y tiemblan, y tiemblan los machistas, América Latina va a ser toda feminista”

Watch out, watch out, watch out who goes there, the feminist struggle for Latin America! And be afraid, be afraid machistas, Latin America will all be feminist!

Photo Credit: Lisbeth Montaña
‘Legal Abortion’. Photo Credit: Lisbeth Montaña