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“We have had the same law for a hundred years and women never stopped aborting. The debate is not abortion yes or abortion no. The debate is legal abortion or clandestine abortion," Marina, a 16-year-old teenager, said.
After 20 hours of discussion, the Lower House approved the bill for the voluntary termination of pregnancy with 131 votes in favor, 117 votes against, and six abstentions. Now the bill must be sent to the Senate for final approval.
The bill sent by President Alberto Fernandez allows the woman to have a free, safe, and legal abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy. The new rule also establishes that the health workers may not delay over 10 days between the moment a woman requests the termination of pregnancy and the execution of the clinical procedure.
On Thursday morning, the lawmakers began the debate as thousands of people followed their speeches through giant screens in a plaza divided in two by fences. On one side were citizens who wore green scarves and support the right of women to decide and, on the other side, citizens with light blue scarves who oppose abortion.
“Nobody promotes abortion, women do not want to reach that situation... But abortions happen for multiple reasons. Resolving this issue in favor of women implies that all have access to safe abortion. It is a problem of public health and social justice," the Front for All lawmaker Juan Carlos Alderete said.
In Argentina, over 300,000 clandestine abortions are performed each year and nearly 40,000 women have to be hospitalized for complications derived from them. In 2018, the Lower House approved a bill for voluntary termination of pregnancy, but the Senate rejected it.
The moment today when Argentina's lower house passed the law to decriminalise abortion. Protesters camped out all night to hear the results in the early hours. Hopefully the start of changes across the whole region. pic.twitter.com/DvACvTBFUI
Since 1921, Argentine legislation punishes abortion with a prison sentence of up to four years in prison, except in cases of rape and risk to the mother's health. That, however, will change.
“For 100 years, legislators became inquisitors, and we did moral scrutiny. We ask the woman who comes to have an abortion if she had consent or not when having sex. That's how it was established in the 1921 law. We must stop being the men of 1921," opposition lawmaker Waldo Wolff recalled.
Since Argentina regained democracy in 1983, over 3,000 women have died from poorly performed abortions. One of them was the grandmother of lawmaker Alicia Aparicio.
“I owed you, Grandma. For you and for all the women who lost their lives,” she said with tears in her eyes as she voted for the bill.
“I ask for ‘education to decide, contraceptives so as not to abort, and legal, safe, and free abortion so as not to die.' Let it be law."
Outside the parliamentary compound, hundreds of women remained in vigil throughout the night despite the rain.
"Not one more death by clandestine abortion," "Motherhood will be desired or it will not be," "We are making history," were some phrases that were shouted and read on banners.
“We have had the same law for a hundred years and women never stopped aborting,” Marina, a 16-year-old teenager, said.
“The debate is not abortion yes or abortion no. The debate is legal abortion or clandestine abortion. The State has a historical debt with us and it has to fulfill it," she stressed.