Today, a pivotal vote could change the lives of women in Argentina, as the lower house of the country’s congress decides whether to finally decriminalise abortion.
The vote, taking place this afternoon, comes less than a month since Ireland’s landmark vote to legalise abortion. For months, thousands of women in Argentina have been taking to the streets, wearing signature green neckerchiefs, to protest the country’s restrictive laws.
Currently, the South American country has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world. It is entirely illegal for women (and trans men) to obtain a termination there, except in cases of rape or when a woman’s life is deemed to be in danger – but, even in these specific circumstances, women struggle to find doctors who will carry out the procedure, as they are fearful of being prosecuted. Women undergoing abortions can be jailed for up to four years, or for longer if the pregnancy had progressed to a point where the foetus could be viable outside of the womb. The bill up for consideration in today’s vote would legalise abortion up to 14 weeks – though no date has yet been set for the upper house of congress to consider the bill.
As a result, abortion is usually unsafe – covert abortions are the leading cause of death among pregnant women in 17 of 24 provinces in Argentina – and stigma around the procedure is rife. Many women travel to neighbouring Uruguay to end their pregnancies, though estimates suggest that as many as 500,000 abortions take place each year in Argentina.
The outcome is expected to be close but, for the women of Argentina, hope remains high
And now, women are demanding change. A feminist campaign group, Ni Una Menos (“not one [woman] less”) was started in 2015 after the death of Daiana Garcia, a 19-year-old woman whose body was found dumped at the side of a road. More than 40,000 women protested her death and widespread femicide in Argentina – and, in the years following, the movement has taken up the cause of reproductive rights, too.
Support is growing across the country – and today’s vote could solidify that. A vote from the lower house to decriminalise abortion would not only be significant for women, but perhaps also for the global fight for women’s rights, since Argentina is the home country of Pope Francis. The outcome is expected to be close but, for the women of Argentina, hope remains high.