One year of legal abortion in Argentina: how it was achieved and what are the challenges today | Opinion

A demonstration in favor of the decriminalization of abortion in front of the Argentine Congress, in February 2020.
A demonstration in favor of the decriminalization of abortion in front of the Argentine Congress, in February 2020.Natacha Pisarenko (AP)

One year after the approval of the law that enshrined the right to voluntary and legal interruption of pregnancy in Argentina, a conquest that inspires other countries in the region and the world to move towards the decriminalization and legalization of abortion.

The first anniversary of this law is an excellent opportunity to tell the world how it was possible to achieve a very important right for the exercise of reproductive autonomy for women and people with pregnant bodies. And so that, also, we can share the challenges that we observed in this first year of validity of the standard.

Between 1921 and until 2020, Argentina recognized the right to legal abortion only on three grounds: in the face of danger to the life and health of the pregnant person, or when the pregnancy is the product of rape. Today, in Argentina, women who decide to have an abortion can do so in a comprehensive, safe and free way in the health system. The right to decide and access the voluntary interruption of pregnancy up to the fourteenth week (inclusive) of the gestational process is recognized without the need to explain the reasons for the decision and the right to abortion is maintained for reasons without time limit.

It was during the 1970s that Argentina began to take the first steps in this fight, when feminist and health organizations began to raise the need to decriminalize abortion.

In 2003, the first plan to fight in favor of legal abortion was developed during a National Meeting of Women. This meeting is an almost unique event in the world, in which women from different provinces of Argentina come together to debate in an assembly, strategies to achieve gender equality. In the framework of another of these meetings, in 2005, the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion was created, which in 2007 presented the first bill in the National Congress.

In 2015 a key event occurred: the first massive mobilization #NiUnaMenos, which arose to demand that measures be adopted to combat and eradicate gender violence. This mobilization represented a milestone and paved the way for a broader agenda of demands for rights.

This context was key to moving towards the decriminalization and legalization of abortion. This is how the so-called “green tide” arose, which flooded the streets with scarves of the same color, symbol of the fight for legal, safe and free abortion.

The bill for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy was presented seven times in the National Congress. Only in 2018, legislators were able to debate the bill for the first time, although its approval was not achieved. But that year was key for abortion to “come out of the closet”, stop being a taboo and become a matter of public conversation. Only two years later, on December 30, 2020, did abortion become law.

While this first anniversary of the law is a date to celebrate, it is also a time to reflect on the challenges facing the implementation of the standard.

Law 27,610 establishes that access to abortion must be guaranteed like any other health service in the public or private system. Amnesty International Argentina has closely monitored the implementation and although we are aware that only one year has passed, we observe some difficulties in accessing the provision. One of the main barriers is the lack of access to information, a determining factor for women and pregnant women to exercise their rights.

Despite the enormous importance in the conquest of this law, there are still many corners of the country where women do not know what they are entitled to, under what conditions, where to access the benefit, its gratuity, who is obliged to guarantee it and where it is They can make claims against delays or barriers to access.

Disinformation sustains the stigma around abortion, with inhibitory and / or dissuasive effects that alienate people from the health system. In addition, it puts people’s health and lives at risk and has a discriminatory impact on people in vulnerable situations.

Currently the right to interrupt pregnancy is law in Argentina. But there are sectors that try to prevent its application. In its first year of validity, a total of 37 actions were initiated against the norm, of which only 5 are still pending. These actions questioned its constitutionality, appealing to the same arguments with which the anti-rights sectors lost the debate in Congress.

Today we celebrate that abortion is legal in Argentina. But we know that defending the law and working for its effective implementation are challenges that lie ahead.

The Argentine experience inspires other countries in the region and the world to advance in the recognition of this right. At times when there are setbacks around the right to abortion in northern countries, it is important that the green tide from the south illuminate those who occupy spaces of power and decision-making, so that they prevent setbacks and advance in favor of this right .

Mariela Belski is Executive Director of Amnesty International Argentina and Ambassador of SheDecides

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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