Argentina’s new bill could legalize abortion within 14 weeks of conception

Latin America

Women follow on an outside television screen the discussion over an abortion law at lower house of congress, in Buenos Aires, early Thursday, June 14, 2018. The lower house of Argentina’s congress has approved a bill that would legalize elective abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, sending the measure to the Senate. President Mauricio Macri has said he’ll sign the bill if it’s approved. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

Argentina could become the next country to legalize abortion. A bill to allow elective abortions narrowly passed the Lower House of Congress, and now goes to the Senate. If it passes there, Argentina’s President has said he will sign it into law, despite his own beliefs.

CGTN’s Joel Richards reports.

After more than 20 hours of debate, the vote went down to the wire. A narrow majority in Argentina’s lower house of Congress voted to legalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The predominantly Catholic country has been deeply divided over the abortion debate. Both sides camped out overnight to follow the final vote in Congress.

Those against abortion see this as a decision about abortion in itself. Mariana Rodriguez Varela has been one of the visible and controversial faces in recent weeks.

“The state should be a father to its children – its citizens. A father is not going to kill his children, he is going to look after them, that is what we ask here,” Varela said.

Others see this as a public health issue. According to official figures, half a million illegal abortions are performed every year in Argentina. Hundreds of thousands of activists, in particular, a generation of young women, have rallied behind the bill in a country where the feminist movement is increasingly vocal.

The women’s rights movement in Argentina has gained prominence in recent years. Green scarves are the symbol of the campaign to decriminalize abortion.

Filmmaker Carolina Reynoso said the feminist movement laid the groundwork so the country could talk about abortion. Her documentary in 2013 told the story of many women, including herself, who had gone through with an abortion.

“It is important for guaranteeing access to public health and so that no women suffers discrimination or health complications and risk of death afterwards But it is also important so that women are completely free. If we cannot choose if we want to be mothers or not, or continue with a pregnant, we cannot be completely free,” Reynoson said.

Argentina has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws. After Thursday’s vote, only the Senate stands in the way of that changing.