Activists hold green handkerchiefs, which symbolizes the abortion rights movement, during a rally to legalize abortion, outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian - RC1D8312AB10

The Battle for Abortion Rights Continues in Argentina

Though the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy (IVE) bill failed to pass Argentina’s Senate last fall, the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion has reintroduced legislation to legalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. On May 28, the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, thousands of women marched once again in Buenos Aires and around the country, waving the green flags that have come to represent the feminist and prochoice movement in the nation. Currently, abortion is only legal in cases of rape and cases in which the mother’s health is at risk. It is this latter exception that allows doctors who support abortion rights to invoke the “ILE protocol” for the lawful “interruption of pregnancy,” as the definition of health in the penal code aligns with that of the World Health Organization to include psychological and social dimensions. However, this interpretation, though legally defensible, is not held by all physicians. There are, in fact, entire hospitals that practice “conscientious objection” on matters of abortion, refusing to perform an abortion even in the gravest emergency cases when a woman will die without the procedure.

Though unlikely to pass, abortion rights advocates are glad that the IVE bill—along with wider campaigns such as #NiUnaMenos and Girls, Not Mothers, and the high-profile screening of the abortion rights documentary Que Sea Ley at the Cannes Film Festival—continues to push the issue into the spotlight. A presidential election will be held later this year, and leaders of the abortion rights movement point out that this is the first such election in which candidates are being asked to stake a position on the issue. A modest shift in the Senate would provide the opportunity for the IVE to pass, and support is increasing for this and for the Comprehensive Sex Education Program, which would incorporate pregnancy prevention into existing sex-ed programs.

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