In the next 10 days, Argentina President Alberto Fernandez intends to pass a bill that will legalize abortion. If the bill is passed into law, Argentina will become the first major Latin American country to legalize abortion.
“Society in the 21st century needs to respect the individual choice of its members to freely decide about their bodies,” Fernandez stated in his first address in Congress. It’s not the first time Argentina has pushed for the legalization of abortion. A previous bill proposed in August 2018 was shot down because former President Mauricio Macri refused to endorse it; the church also heavily opposed the bill.
Abortion was banned in Argentina in 1921, with rape and life-threatening pregnancies as exceptions. In other Latin American countries like the Dominican Republic and Haiti, there are no exceptions.
According to The Guardian, criminalizing abortion “has condemned many women, generally poorer women, to seek out abortions in totally clandestine situations, putting their health and sometimes their very lives at risk.” Some fatal complications during pregnancy can come from existing health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and more. Even when the complication isn’t fatal, there’s a risk that the child would suffer from birth deficiencies.
The news of Fernandez’ announcement has been celebrated by Argentina’s women’s rights activists, especially since they have been campaigning for the legalization of abortion for so long. They are hoping that Congress is “up to the role assigned to it.”
In the Philippines, where abortion is illegal, there are about 600,000 women who get abortions every year with 1,000 of them dying due to the lack of alternative solutions (since most of them turn to folk medicine and self-inducing abortion). Governments should consider and prioritize the safety of women when handling something as serious as reproductive health. Although both Argentina and the Philippines are dominantly Catholic states, there should be a separation of church and state when the reproductive health of citizens is at stake.