Argentina’s Lower House Passes Bill Legalizing Abortion

Following the loosening of abortion restrictions in Chile and growing protests in Argentina, the government of Argentina has said it will consider holding a refer­endum on the legalization of abortion. Meanwhile in Argentina’s lower house, 70 lawmakers across the political spectrum presented a bill to legalize abortion up to 14 weeks of a pregnancy. Presi­dent Mauricio Macri said he was in favor of debate and would encourage his allies in Congress to vote as they saw fit even though he was personally opposed. Abortion in Argentina has historically been heavily restricted and closely tied to the views of the Catholic hierarchy, with former President Carlos Menem publicly aligning the country with positions put forward by the Vatican. In 1994, Argentina amended its constitution to recognize the Pact of San José—an international treaty declaring in part a right to life to embryos and fetuses in all stages of devel­opment. Following an inter­view with Pope John Paul II, Menem codified March 25 as the “Day of the Unborn Child.” The current law restricts all abortions other than those for pregnancies resulting from rape or that endanger a woman’s life. Even these exceptions require that a woman seek permis­sion from a judge, which often leads to lengthy delays. Lawmaker Aracelia Ferreyra said of the new bill, “This is a topic of equality and inequality, because those who do not have money pay with their health or their bodies.” It is estimated that nearly one-third of maternal deaths in Argentina are the result of clandestine abortions.

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