Argentina takes important step towards passing historic abortion law

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Emily Reynolds
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Abortion is set to be decriminalised in Argentina as politicians vote towards passing a bill that would legalise it. 

Argentinian politicians have made steps towards passing a bill that would legalise abortion in the country.

The bill was passed through Argentina’s congress by 129 votes to 123 after a 22 hour debate, and will now be seen before the senate. 

Currently, Argentina adheres to a model of decriminalisation on “certain grounds” – meaning abortion is legal except in cases of rape, or where the life or health of the woman is at risk. 

Women are also required to apply for permission to get a termination, meaning that vital procedures are often delayed. 

Mayra Mendoza, congresswoman, described the issue as a “matter of social justice”.

“We are dealing with a public health issue that cannot be addressed with blinders, nor with morals and ethics and much less religion” she said. Argentinian President Mauricio Macri has already stated that he will sign the law if it is approved, even though he fiercely opposes it. 

Amnesty International has long campaigned for abortion rights in the country. In 2017, they released a report  citing abortion rights as one of the human rights priorities for the country, citing the case of a 25 year old woman detained for more than two years after she suffered a miscarriage. 

“Belén arrived at the hospital looking for help, and she ended up in prison for two years,” the report reads. “First, she was charged with abortion followed by murder, which is a nonexistent criminal charge. Then, the prosecutor changed the charge to doubly aggravated murder, with a sentence of 25 years in confinement.

“The fact that women can go to prison just for making these decisions put her rights in danger. This is why Amnesty International has confidence in promoting a serious, informed and committed debate about decriminalization.

“As stated by international law, women must never be submitted to criminal proceedings or forced to put their lives or health at risk when it comes to interrupting a pregnancy, It is essential to repeal the legislation that criminalises women and girls for the sake of requesting or submitting to an abortion.”

“We’re celebrating this first step taken by the Chamber of Deputies in its decision to move towards decriminalising abortion,” said Mariela Belski, Amnesty International Argentina’s Executive Director. “New legislation could end a vicious circle where women have no option but to risk their lives, their health, and their freedom if they are sent to prison.

“Classifying the legal termination of a pregnancy as a crime has no basis in international law.”

And Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas Director, said that the country had made “significant progress” with the step. 

“Today Argentina has committed to make significant progress in defending the human rights of women and girls, and is also sending an important message to the rest of the continent, where restrictive laws on accessing safe and legal abortions have caused death and suffering for millions of women and girls.

“Very soon, Argentina could join places like Uruguay and Mexico City where abortion-related maternal mortality has decreased, in part thanks to complete decriminalisation.”

Image: Getty