Argentina’s Senate passed a law legalising abortion in Pope Francis’ homeland early Wednesday after a marathon 12-hour session, a victory for the women’s movement that has been fighting for the right for decades.
Argentina on Wednesday became one of only a handful of South American nations to legalize abortion. 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.
“Adopting a law that legalizes abortion in a Catholic country as big as Argentina will energize the struggle to ensure women’s rights in Latin America,” said Juan Pappier, a senior Americas researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Although there will certainly be resistance, I think it’s fair to predict that, as it occurred when Argentina legalized same sex marriage in 2010, this new law could have a domino effect in the region,” Pappier said.
Demonstrators both for and against the bill came from around the country to stand vigil in front of the Senate building in Buenos Aires.
Argentina’s Congress has rejected the change before, but this is the first time such a bill has been presented to lawmakers with support from the ruling government. In 2018, before center-left Peronist Alberto Fernandez was elected president, a similar bill was rejected by a slim margin.
Maria Angela Guerrero of the Campaign for Legal Abortion group, told reporters in front of the Senate she was “cautiously optimistic” the bill would pass this time. Advocates say the measure is needed to protect women who would otherwise risk their lives in unregulated, illegal abortions.
Argentine law now allows abortion only when there is a serious risk to the health of the mother or in cases of rape.
The bill under consideration is accompanied by side legislation aimed at assisting women who want to continue their pregnancies and face severe economic or social difficulties.