Argentina heads for Senate vote on expanding abortion rights

Lower house of Congress has already approved bill that would expand availability of legal abortion.

People in favour of a bill to legalise abortion react after the lower house of Congress passed the law. The Senate vote is expected to be close [Agustin Marcarian/Reuters]

Argentina’s Senate will decide next week whether to give final approval to a government-backed bill that would expand the availability of legal abortion, a proposal that has divided a society with strong ties to the Roman Catholic church.

On December 11, the lower house of Congress approved the measure, which would allow interruption of pregnancies until the fourteenth week. The Senate vote is expected to be close.

“We have the right to be able to decide about our own lives, about whether we want to have children and, if we want to have them, how many we want to have. If we decide to interrupt the pregnancy, we have the right to do it autonomously and freely,” Yamila Picasso, a 33-year-old activist, told the Reuters news agency outside Congress, where she was demonstrating.

Picasso is a member of the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, which has been demanding the new law for years.

On the other side of the debate is Ana Marmora, a 29-year-old lawyer and journalist who is a spokeswoman for the Young Front, a group that rejects the legalisation of abortion.

She said backers of the bill want women to be able to terminate pregnancies not out of need but simple desire.

“Is it right that we discard our children just because we feel like it?” Marmora said.

“The question of abortion in general cuts across society,” explained Facundo Nejamkis, political scientist and director of the consulting firm Opina Argentina. He said it appears the government has the votes needed to narrowly pass the bill.

A similar bill was defeated by Argentina’s Congress in 2018. Current law allows for abortion only when there is a serious risk to the mother’s health or in the event of rape.

Broad demonstrations are expected both for and against the bill when it is debated in the Senate on Tuesday of next week.

On the same day, the Senate will also debate a side project to provide assistance to women who want to move forward with their pregnancy and need help facing economic hardship.

Source: Reuters