Argentina passes landmark abortion bill amid debate
Published: Dec 30, 2020 06:53 PM

Pro-choice activists go emotional after the Senate approved a bill to legalize abortion outside the Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Argentina on Wednesday became one of only a handful of South American nations to legalize abortion, after hours of debate in the Senate.

Hundreds of thousands of illegal abortions are carried out every year in the nation of 44 million, and pro-choice campaigners have long urged authorities to put an end to dangerous backstreet terminations by legalizing the process.

"It becomes law," said Senate president Cristina Kirchner, after more than 12 hours of debate.

Thousands of pro-choice activists cheered in the streets of the capital after the bill was approved 38 to 29, with one abstention.

It legalizes voluntary abortions at any stage up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Ahead of the vote, pro-choice and anti-abortion demonstrators had gathered outside parliament despite coronavirus fears.

The vote overturns a similar one in 2018 which, although also passed the lower house, ultimately foundered in the Senate by 38 votes to 31.

South America is considered a place with some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. In Argentina, terminations were allowed in only two instances: rape, and danger to the mother's life. 

The bill was proposed by President Alberto Fernandez and passed the Chamber of Deputies on December 11, despite fierce opposition from the ­Catholic Church and evangelical Christians.

"I'm Catholic but I have to legislate for everyone. Every year around 38,000 women are taken to hospital due to [clandestine] abortions and since the restoration of democracy [in 1983] more than 3,000 have died," said Fernandez.

"The interruption of a pregnancy is a tragedy. It abruptly ends another developing life," said Ines Blas, a senator from the ruling coalition.

However, Senator Silvina Garcia Larraburu, again from the ruling coalition, said she would vote for the bill this time despite voting against it in 2018.

In Argentina, divorce was legalized only in 1987, sex education introduced in 2006, gay marriage approved in 2010 and a gender identity law passed in 2012.
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