Argentina earns the right to safe and free abortion

After 15 years of mobilisation by the National Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, Argentina ends 2020 by granting this right to women and public health throughout the country.

The Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy Bill (IVE) reached the Senate in 2018, when it went through a hard struggle and was defeated. But on 29 December, the issue came from the government of President Alberto Fernández, in fulfillment of the promise made during the campaign to legalise abortion by the end of his first year in office.

After more than 10 hours of exhaustive debate, comings and goings, and with massive pressure from women, the Senate panel registered at 4:13 a.m. on Wednesday 30 Dember, 38 votes in favour, 29 against and one abstention from the bill that legalises abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy. As the most awaited news of the year, the celebration of one of the greatest achievements of women was greeted with cries and collective hugs.

Argentina is now the fourth country, behind Cuba, the first country in Latin America to legalise abortion without restrictions, Uruguay and Mexico City. We are happy for our sisters and this only strengthens and renews our struggle in Brazil, where abortion is still a crime. There are penalties of one to three years imprisonment for the pregnant woman, and one to four years of imprisonment for the doctor or any other person who performs the procedure.

women will continue to have abortions regardless of legislation and public opinion

In the 21st century, the Brazilian healthcare system (Sistema Único de Saúde, SUS) registered last year alone around 195,000 abortions (spontaneous and by judicial or medical decision). The average is 535 admissions per day. Abortions for reasons provided for by law, when there is a risk to the life of the woman, as a result of rape and in pregnancy of an anencephalic fetus, are in the minority.

Inequality of information and social inequality. Two sides of the same coin.

Accessing information and resources for the voluntary termination of pregnancy is directly linked to improved health indicators, while the advance of conservative governments in the region and the greater political influence of fundamentalist movements, as in Brazil, generate greater vulnerability of rights, higher mortality rates due to unsafe abortions and forced births.

The main victims of abortion complications are black women. Between 2009 and 2018, the SUS officially registered 721 deaths of women due to abortion. For every 10 who died, 6 were black or brown.

"It is undoubtedly a difficult, painful subject which many people prefer to sweep under the carpet, or simply say they are against without discussing the underlying issue, which is public health, education and information. Despite the taboo on abortion, many people do it in silence, in safe places, without embarrassment and carry on with life. Surviving an abortion is a class privilege, as one of the materials of the campaign for abortion legalisation in Argentina states. Yes, women will continue to have abortions regardless of legislation and public opinion," says Luba Melo, Secretary for Women Workers, Sindsep-SP, and PSI World Women's committee titular member for Brazil.

Abortion will be severely punished, with life even - when performed in an unsafe manner - if it is a woman belonging to the poorest strata. Therefore, it is a social issue. The figures confirm this. One in five women in their 40s has already had an abortion in Brazil, the equivalent of about 4.7 million women.

Our expectation is that the progress made in Argentina by the law will have a great regional impact on women's lives.