Argentina’s Congress began Tuesday the third hearing on a legislative project to decriminalize abortions within the 14th week of pregnancy. Legislators will hear 44 speakers, 22 against and 22 in support of decriminalizing abortion. Detractors and supporters will have seven minutes each to present their arguments.
According to a survey ran by the local Telam news agency, currently 104 representatives are against decriminalization and 95 support it. Fifty-six legislators remain undecided or have not made their choice public; the victory or failure of this legislative proposal depends on their vote.
Some of the those presenting arguments against the law include Juan Navarro, professor at the Catholic University of Argentina, who said proponents were trying “to impose obligation to have an abortion. It forces people to perform abortions even if they have profound objections.” Professor Florencia Ratti, also of the Catholic University, argued “women’s right to life is not at risk unless she puts it under risk herself.”
However, supporters have claimed women should have the right to choose whether or not they want to have a child without choosing between life and death, calling women’s death due to clandestine abortions femicides perpetrated by the state.
The United Nations and other human rights organizations have argued the laws criminalizing abortion amount to violence and discrimination against women.
Last week Amnesty International’s secretary general, Salil Shetty met with President Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires to urge him to publicly support decriminalization of abortion. “The criminalization of abortion is an extreme form of violence against women. It doesn’t reduce abortions – it just makes them unsafe,” Shetty told The Guardian after his meeting with Macri.
Access to legal and safe abortion is a regional issue. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 97 percent of women of childbearing age in Latin America and the Caribbean live in countries where abortion is restricted or banned altogether. An estimated 2,000 women die in Latin America every year due to unsafe abortions.
In six Latin American countries, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Suriname abortions are illegal without exception. In these countries women could face sentences for homicide. Only in Cuba and Uruguay women can access abortions without restrictions. This March 8, International Women’s Day, Latin American women demanded an end to femicides and impunity, and legal abortions to avoid the deaths of thousands of women.
The Argentine Congress will hold its first vote on the issue in June.