In many parts of the world, women's right to their own bodies is restricted by conservative abortion legislation. In several countries in South and Latin America, on the other hand, the wind is blowing in the other direction. In Argentina, the movement that has fought for abortion rights and had a major influence over the country's legalization of abortions has come to be known as the "Green Wave". Now the movement has spread to other countries on the continent.
In September every year, the international abortion day falls, and in connection with this, attention is drawn to the fact that the right to abortion is threatened in many parts of the world. In Poland have abortion legislation has been further tightened in that the country's government announced in January that abortions of injured fetuses will also be banned. Legislation in some US states has also become more restrictive. The first of September was introduced a new abortion law in Texas which prohibits abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy and no exceptions are made for those who become pregnant as a result of a rape or incest.
There is no doubt that those who fight for abortion law in many places face adversity, but there are also areas in the world where abortion rights fighters have been heard for their demands for liberalization of legislation.
In South and Latin America, where International Abortion Day also has its origins, a cohesive feminist movement has stood up for the right to free abortion for a long time. The movement's campaigns and opinion formation have yielded results and now a liberalization trend seems to have taken hold on the continent.
Second time valid in Argentina
It was on December 30, 2020 that it became clear that Abortion would be legal in Argentina until week 14 of pregnancy - regardless of the reason for the abortion. 38 of the senators had voted for and 29 against. It became a historic day in Argentina, not least for The Green Wave - the movement that has fought for the right to abortion in the country.
As early as 2018, a vote was taken in the Senate regarding the abortion issue. There was no change in the law then, but during the second vote last year, some senators had changed their position on the issue - and a change in the law therefore took place.
The pressure of the green wave was decisive for the change in the law
The BBC's correspondent in Argentina, Daniel Pardo, has listed various reasons for the legalization. One of them is the president's support for the bill. Another is that some so-called key senators have changed their minds on the issue. What lies behind the fact that key senators have changed their minds and which is also mentioned by Pardo as a third reason is precisely the pressure and perseverance from the Green Wave.
He describes how the women's movement in Argentina has pushed through many feminist changes. The movement was many years ago a driving force in the fight for women's suffrage and in recent times they have, among other things, run the campaign "Not one less” (“Not another woman”) - which aimed to end men's deadly violence against women. And most recently, the right to legal abortion has become the movement's main issue. Pressures that began with demonstrations in the streets of a united strong movement with the color green as an identity marker have now had an impact even at the political level.
Seeking answers to what made legalization possible in 2020 but not 2018 helps us understand the factors and arguments that made the law change finally possible. The arguments can also be highlighted and used in countries where abortion is still criminalized.
Legal abortion or secret abortion?
In addition to the perseverance of the supporters of the green wave, politicians were also influenced by new arguments in the debate. Among other things, the consequences of secret abortions were in focus in the Argentine debate, writes Katarina Bergehed, who is responsible for women's rights at Amnesty, in an article. Arguments raised by Argentine politicians who were in favor of the law change included that the criminalization of abortion mainly affects the poor, and that by criminalizing abortion, one criminalizes poverty. The debate also highlighted that the issue was no longer about being for or against abortion or about the opinions of individual politicians:
- It is about legal abortion or secret abortion, motherhood should not be forced under threats of punishment and criminalization, said Norma Durango, one of the senators.
This new focus has been successful - abortion has no longer been presented as a moral issue where one can assume a position for or against. Abortions will take place regardless and the debate has instead been about how abortions should take place under safe conditions.
The green wave sweeps on
The spill-over effect of legalization in Argentina is already visible. In many countries around the Latin America is demonstrated it's too full for easing of abortion legislation - and the demonstrations are yielding results. In Chile has the House of Commons recently approved a bill that decriminalizes abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy. The bill will now proceed. Among other things, it must be voted through in Congress in order to enter into force, but it can still be seen as a first step towards a decriminalization of abortions.
Even in Mexico, the Green Wave seems to have gained political attention. On September XNUMX, the Supreme Court ruled that it is against the constitution to criminalize abortion. The decision applies imprisonment for abortion in the state of Coahuila, but the ruling will guide the courts across the country. Hans Linde, chairman of RFSU, has in one article in on Omvärlden commented on the event:
- The fact that the court has now ruled that criminalization of abortion is contrary to the country's constitution is a huge victory, it paves the way for everyone to have the right to their body in Latin America's second most populous country, he says.
The fact that the issue has been put on the agenda in Argentina has led to it doing so in other countries as well, and successful arguments in the Argentine debate seem to have an impact in several places. The green wave has spread across the continent and hopefully legalization in Argentina was the starting point for a liberalization trend of the restrictive abortion legislation that dominates the continent.
In connection with International Abortion Day, we should pay attention to the fact that the development of the abortion issue in many parts of the world is going in the wrong direction, but we should also rejoice in and learn from the successes that are taking place. The green wave sweeping across South and Latin America is a successful movement that raises hopes for the continent's women's sexual and reproductive rights. It proves that Persistent protests and demonstrations by a united and united feminist movement can affect political leaders and create change.