Argentina: 3 key facts to understand rejection of the decriminalization of abortion

These are the 3 keys so that after 16 hours of debate, the Argentine Senate will reject 38 to 31, the law for the decriminalization of abortion

Argentina: 3 key facts to understand rejection of the decriminalization of abortion

Even after the rejection of the project of abortion’s decriminalization, which will make that the issue cannot be addressed until next year, the promoters of the law see the campaign that was generated around the public health problem as a victory that probably ends placing abortion on the agenda of the 2019 election campaign.

With this law, the legalization of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy was sought until week 14 of gestation. The interruption of pregnancy should be addressed in all public and private health institutions, within the Compulsory Medical Program (PMO), as a basic health benefit.

The proponents of the project argued that in the country there are between 47,000 and 52,000 hospitalizations a year because of poorly performed clandestine abortions, and dozens of women (43 in 2016, according to official statistics) who died for that reason.

Why was the proposal rejected?

  1. Religion

Most Argentines consider themselves Catholic. According to several surveys, including that of the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses of Argentina, 70% of the population is Catholic. Recently, the number of followers of evangelical groups has increased. The figure reaches almost 10%.

Consequently, the influence of religious and conservative groups in the political sphere is not limited. This was evidenced in the speeches of the senators who, before defining their vote, hid behind their religious beliefs and the need "to save two lives" to explain their vote against the project. Even Senator Pedro Guastavino denounced how his WhastApp became a pressure mechanism:

"I spent time stopping and dodging crucifixes from a sector of the Church that may be the same that turned its face when they disappeared us, the same that when they tortured our comrades in the clandestine detention centers they looked to other way."

Also read:  As the Argentine senate rejects the legal abortion, How can we compare it to the case in Uruguay?

According to different Argentine media, in these months, bishops and priests spoke about the issue during the Eucharist, and even an archbishop mentioned it in the traditional and mediatic celebration of Independence Day.

  1. Representativeness and alliances

Argentina has a bicameral and federal political system that is governed by the idea that the Senate represents the provinces and the Chamber of Deputies represents the people.

While in the lower chamber is composed of deputies according to the national census, the upper house has a fixed number of three senators per province, who have periods of 6 years with indefinite re-election.

In this case, it was the senators of the Upper House, with a conservative majority, who rejected the law.

In addition, in the decision also influenced the president, Mauricio Macri. A conservative who has said he is "in favor" of life, by promoting this debate in Congress, gave green light to the legislators of the ruling coalition to vote as they wanted and stayed out of the debate.

  1. Radicalisms in the law

Finally, some points of the content of the law could be the cause of rejection. Points like:

  • Criminalize denial of abortion, even in Catholic hospitals
  • Make the procedure free in a country that at this moment must reduce its public spending

These points made doubt the congressional representatives and the Argentine population, since for these there did not seem to be a lobby or negotiation that would ensure the approval of the law.

However, there were advances such as the report prepared by Senator Nancy González, which shows that the legalization of abortion would imply a 43% reduction in the resources currently allocated by the public health system to address complications resulting from clandestine abortions.

The report entitled "The cost of unsafe abortion" ensures that "with official information available it is possible to affirm that the approval of the IVE project would imply a fairer and more efficient utilization of the public health budget". The report also explains that the cost for the system would be reduced by at least 43% if the abortion was legal, safe and free and 55% if the State also produced misoprostrol.

Although the law was rejected, the vote was described as a "monumental triumph" because it managed to place the issue of the decriminalization of abortion at the center of the Argentine political debate.


LatinAmerican Post | Camila González C
Translated from “Argentina: 3 factores claves para entender el rechazo de la despenalización del aborto”

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