President of Argentina Introduces Bill to Legalize Abortion
Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The center-left president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, presented a bill to legalize abortion to the Chamber of Deputies.

The legislation—Regulation of access to voluntary interruption of pregnancy and post-abortion care— was drawn up by the ministries of Health and Women, Gender and Diversity in coordination with the Legal and Technical Secretariat of the Presidency. Two days of hearings were held by the committees on General Legislation, Health and Social Action, Women and Diversities, and Criminal Legislation with presentations from scientific, health, ethical-religious and judicial experts.

The President hopes to legalize abortion by the end of the 2020 legislative session, which his government extended to January 3, 2021, with the Chamber of Deputies voting on the legislation by December 10 and followed immediately by action in the more conservative Senate. Currently in Argentina, the home country of Pope Francis, abortion is legal only if there is a severe threat to the mother’s health or if the child was conceived in rape.

Argentina voted against legalization of abortion in 2018 when the Senate rejected legislation passed by the Deputies. Only Uruguay has legalized abortion on demand in Latin America which together with the Caribbean, include six of the 26 countries globally where abortion is not permitted under any circumstance.

Demonstrations against and for legalized abortion have been taking place.  Thousands of advocates seeking to protect children in the womb from the violence of abortion, called the “light blue majority” and supported by polls that show most Argentines oppose legalization of abortion, held marches for life in front of the National Congress and in hundreds cities to voice support for the life of both the unborn child and his or her mother.

Pro-abortion activists have rallied with green scarves, the symbol of the Latin American pro-abortion movement, shouting “legal abortion now” (“Aborto legal ya!”) and spraying painting pro-abortion slogans in green on the cathedral in Buenos Aires.

The legislation would legalize free abortion upon request under any circumstance in public and private hospitals for girls as young as 13 up until week 14 of pregnancy, and then up to the ninth month for cases of rape or endangerment to the “physical or mental” health of the mother. A “conscience objection” clause is included for health care professionals who oppose abortion but they will still be required to refer women seeking abortion to colleagues not opposed to abortion.

Pope Francis sent a handwritten letter to a women’s network in response to a letter he received sent by women living in poor neighborhoods, members of the women’s network “Mujeres de las Villas”, who expressed their opposition to abortion and concern about the attempt to legalize abortion and asked for the pope’s help to be heard.

The women lamented, “Our voice, like that of unborn children, is never heard. The legislators and the press do not want to listen to us and if…we did not have priests raising their voices for us, we would be even more alone. Our teenage daughters are growing up with the idea that they do not have the right to have children because they are poor”.

The Pope offered his “sincere thanks” for the women’s work and said they “know what life is.” He asked, “Is it fair to eliminate a human life to solve a problem? Is it fair to hire a hitman to solve a problem?”

In his letter, Pope Francis also wrote, “We have to solve the problem by fighting poverty and creating jobs. There are other ways to go about this, not the elimination of a life … It’s a failure for a nation to legalize the death of a human being.” 

Echoing the women’s concerns, a representative of Cáritas Argentina told the deputies on the committee that if they intend to "defend the rights of people living in poverty, they first have to prioritize and respect their lives," because the abortion is not a request of vulnerable women. Andrea Imbroglia stated that abortion “is not a request of vulnerable communities. We affirm it from the reality of the territories, and not from some ideologies, nor from religion, nor from desks. From the reality of those territories, women think, feel and look at abortion and everything that surrounds it as a great cruelty”.

“If the National Congress that you are part of intends to defend the rights of people living in poverty, it first has to prioritize and respect their lives. Both the unborn girl or boy, as well as their mother”, Imbroglia said.

“If legal abortion is approved, we would be facing a brutal setback as a society. What will be the next moral limit if some nuisance people are now allowed to be eliminated? Are they going to dare to advance on more vulnerable people, on the elderly, on unproductive people?”, Imbroglia questioned.

During an interview about the bill, President Fernández said it would have the necessary votes to pass and he believes that the debate is not about "abortion yes or no", but "under what conditions are abortions performed". It was reported that he accused pro-lifers of wanting "clandestine abortions to continue" saying, "those of us who say ‘yes to abortion,’ what we want is for abortions to be performed in appropriate sanitary conditions.”

Gines Gonzales Garcia, Argentina’s health minister in controversial testimony before the committee said, “Here there are not two lives as some say”, making reference to the slogan of the pro-life campaign. He continued in ignorance of the scientific facts calling the unborn child “a phenomenon”: “There’s clearly a single person and the other [thing] is a phenomenon. If it were not like that, we would be facing the greatest universal genocide, [because] more than half the civilized world allows it.” In fact, only 67 countries globally allow abortion on demand.

Deputy Francisco Sánchez responded by demanding the resignation of the health minister for the "aberrant denial of the life of the unborn child" from the moment of conception, and for denying "the scientific evidence and the international treaties to which Argentina adheres”. He wrote in an official letter, "This statement is not only erroneous and inhumane, it has the clear intention of denying the existence of life to justify its subsequent elimination through the legalization of abortion, even up to the ninth month of pregnancy.”

Deputy Sánchez concluded, "In this sense, and at the same time that I feel the support of millions of Argentines, I demand the immediate resignation of the Minister of Health Dr. Ginés González García.”

In response to the bill, former congresswoman Cynthia Hotton called it a distraction by the government intended to “hide the failure of the public health system, poverty and the economy behind this initiative” stating, “People are fed up with the lies and the political manipulation of everything… The outcome is always the same: following the incompetency, the people are the ones who suffer the most. With abortion, the same thing happens. People are tired of the green neckerchief as the panacea to all the problems of women and of society.

The Executive Commission of the Argentine Episcopal Conference is encouraging that December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception, be dedicated to prayers for the unborn. In a letter they write, "Given the imminence of the debate in the National Congress of the law to legalize abortion, we propose that in all places where Holy Mass is celebrated that day we raise our confident prayer for the care of the unborn life. At the conclusion of the celebrations we invite you to pray the prayer [for life] of Saint John Paul II…”

More than 100 lawmakers have created the Argentine Network of Legislators for Life to fight abortion measures at federal and local levels.