Argentina today threw the idea that women should have autonomy over their anatomy out of parliament, in a vote that has now become historic for all the wrong reasons. A bill that would give women the right to abortion for the first 14 weeks of pregnancy was last night rejected by legislators at its second stage, following a 16-hour debate.
Currently, abortion is only legal under very particular and precarious circumstances in Argentina – women can procure an abortion legally if the pregnancy is a result of rape or if the mother’s life is deemed to be in danger.
While the campaign to relax the country’s strict laws has been active for decades, a relatively new grassroots group – #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less) – gave the cause a much-needed boost when they founded in 2015. And, more recently, thousands of activists wearing green staged huge rallies in favour of legalising abortion, bolstered by the landslide victory in Ireland earlier this summer. They rejoiced in June, when the bill was voted in – but by just a four-vote majority. Today, they were angered by the decisions made by their government.
“The Argentine lawmakers chose today to turn their backs on hundreds of thousands of women and girls who have been fighting for their sexual and reproductive rights,” said Mariela Belski, executive director of Amnesty International Argentina. “The senators who voted against this or abstained have therefore decided to agree on a system which forces women, girls and others who can become pregnant to undergo clandestine and unsafe abortions.
“All that this decision does is perpetuate the circle of violence which women, girls and others who can become pregnant are forced into. The executive branch had sent a message by opening the debate, but the legislative branch has not risen to the occasion.
“The international community has called on Argentina on several occasions to amend its legislation as it violates the human rights of women and girls. The country has let this historic opportunity go to waste: the opportunity to become an example for the region and follow in the footsteps of Uruguay and Mexico City. It is an unforgivable step backwards.”
It’s a monumental disappointment and a lost opportunity to change history for the better. But many have been left more determined than ever to take the fight back next year, when they will have another opportunity to win the rights they deserve.