With the beginning of the debate about the decriminalization of abortion in Congress just around the corner, and after weeks of pro-choice activists dominating the news cycle and the national conversation, with its campaign since the issue made it to the national conversation, thousands of pro-lifers took the streets yesterday to make their voices heard.
Under the rally cry “yes to life, no to abortion,” the attendants of the so-called “Marcha por la vida” gathered at 3 PM in Plaza Italia, in the neighborhood of Palermo, and marched to the Universidad de Buenos Aires’ School of Law, in Recoleta. There were also marches in most other large urban centers in the country.
The date is not coincidental. Since 1998, March 25th is officially considered the “day of the unborn child” in Argentina, as a result of a decree signed by then-President Carlos Menem. This day, chosen for being nine months away from Christmas, is also commemorated in other countries. Yesterday also happened to be Palm Sunday, marking the beginning of Holy Week.
Many of the signs on the marches took the slogan “Ni una Menos,” used by the eponymous collective in its campaign against femicides, but changed it to “Ni uno Menos,” making reference to the life of the fetuses they claim to defend. The term was first used by Cambiemos senator Esteban Bullrich, a fervent Catholic, during the legislative campaign of last year when consulted about his stance on the debate.
The official event began at 5 PM with speeches from doctors against decriminalization, in which they argued why in their opinion human life begins at conception. People sharing personal stories that led them to take their current stance took to the stage later.
No political leaders from any party delivered speeches.
The march was organized by different NGOs, but was widely supported by the Catholic church, which encouraged its communities throughout the country to take the streets to demand the state “defends both lives” (both mother and fetus).
Different church leaders have (as expected) publicly spoken against decriminalization since the debate picked up steam. Perhaps the most vocal has been Monsignor Héctor Aguer, who said “the government lacks moral principles,” and that President Mauricio Macri “doesn’t even know how to do the sign of the cross.”
Just last week, priests working in the slums released a statement saying that sectors advocating for decriminalization use the argument that the current legal status affects people from the vulnerable sectors of society the most – as they don’t have the resources to safely obtain an illegal abortion – as justification to push their agenda.
The official debate in Congress is set to begin either on Monday, April 3, or on April 10.