Demonstration for abortion in Argentina

Hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated for free abortion around Argentina since 2017. Photo: Lara Va (CC BY-SA)

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Abortion may soon become legal in Argentina

In Argentina, women are only allowed to have an abortion when their lives are in danger or when they have been abused. But after massive demonstrations, the Argentine president is expected to present a bill on free abortion. Something that could lead to a turnaround throughout South America.

Argentine President Alberto Fernández is the first president in the country's history to express his support for the legalization of abortion. In early March, he announced that he would present a bill for free abortion in Argentina. The proposal will then go up for a vote in Congress. At the same time, the ongoing corona pandemic has quarantined the country and the discussion about free abortion has stopped by. As a result, the bill has also been set aside for the time being. 

Affects women's health

Today, abortion can only be performed when the mother's life is in danger or when the pregnancy is the result of an abuse. Otherwise, it is punishable, which can have life-threatening consequences for those who still choose to have an abortion. 

- Women who get complications after unsafe abortions can be afraid and withdraw to seek care, because what they have done is illegal. We already know that free abortion does not increase the number of abortions. They just get safer, says Katarina Bergehed, responsible for women's rights at Amnesty Sweden.

Complications from abortions account for 18 percent of maternal mortality in Argentina and approximately 350 000 Illegal abortions are estimated to be performed in the country every year. 

- Getting access to safe abortions can be vital for girls and women in the country, says Katarina Bergehed. 

Large demonstrations for free abortion

Hundreds of thousands of protesters dressed in green shawls have been protesting against the current abortion legislation since 2017. The movement mobilizes around the issue of free abortion and has been given the name "the green wave". A wave that has also spread other countries in the region

The Argentine movement won a major victory in June 2018 when a bill on free abortion up to and including the fourteenth week of pregnancy was voted through in the lower house of Congress. But two months later, the Senate voted against the same proposal. Despite the defeat, the movement continued to mobilize and worked out a new bill - the proposal that many now believe the president will present.  

The Catholic Church has long been opposed

The issue of free abortion arouses opposition among many in the more religious and conservative sections of the population. The Catholic Church has long argued that abortion is wrong. The pope, who himself comes from Argentina, expressed in connection with the vote in the Senate 2018 that he did not want to see abortion become legal in the country. 

Argentina with its 45 million inhabitants is it third largest country in South America and may be a forerunner on the continent, where abortion is only legally in Uruguay and Guyana.

- The abortion issue is debated in many other countries in South America. If the bill were to pass, it would have consequences far beyond one's own country. It plays a big role that Argentina has such a large population and that the Catholic Church is important in the country, says Katarina Bergehed.

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