A 34-year-old woman has died in Argentina after attempting to induce a miscarriage at home using parsley. This is the first reported death linked to an illegal abortion in Argentina since the country’s senate voted down a landmark abortion bill last week that would have legalised the procedure.
The woman, who was a mother of two and named only as Elizabeth by local media, was taken to a hospital in Buenos Aires on Sunday suffering from septic shock and infection. Though her uterus was removed, medical staffers were unable to save her, Argentine newspaper Clarín reported. She had reportedly survived two earlier illegal abortions.
"There might not be a law, but abortions will continue, and if it's without a law, the woman's life is at risk," senator Eduardo Aguilar wrote on Twitter, referencing the woman's death, according to a translation provided by Newsweek.
Argentina, like most other countries in Catholic-majority Latin America, has restrictive abortion laws. Abortions are only allowed in cases of rape or when the mother’s health is at risk. In all other cases, abortions are considered a criminal offense.
Statistics indicate that unsafe abortions are among the leading cause of maternal death in the country
While there are no official figures on how many abortions take place annually in Argentina, it is estimated the number is between 400,000 and 500,000. Organisations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) point to Health Ministry statistics that indicate that unsafe abortions are among the leading cause of maternal death in the country.
Backers of the defeated Pregnancy Voluntary Interruption (IVE) bill hoped the legislation would help reduce the number of associated deaths. The law would have allowed girls as young as 13 to end a pregnancy for any reason within the first 14 weeks and within five days of the mother’s request. The legislation – which was fuelled, in part, by a grassroots women’s rights movement known as #NiUnaMenos – had enjoyed considerable public support and had been narrowly approved in June by the country’s House. The senate, however, rejected the bill.
Following reports of Elizabeth’s failed abortion, many activists have spoken out against the senate.
“Liz, the 24-year-old young woman that was hospitalised in Buenos Aires after a clandestine abortion, has died,” tweeted Raquel Vivanco, who is part of #NiUnaMenos. “This is the outcome of the voting session in the Senate. They don’t care about the lives of the women. Legal abortion or clandestine abortion, that’s the discussion.”
Hundreds of protesters have also taken to the streets of Argentina, once more, to call for reproductive rights – and for the lawmakers who voted against the abortion bill to be held accountable for her death.