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In what is set to be the sixth initiative of its kind, 41 national deputies supported by 350 NGOs presented a bill to legalize abortion in Argentina last week. Abortion hasn’t been debated in Congress since an unsuccessful debate was launched in November 2014.

“The Chamber of Deputies is an accomplice of death by illegal abortion. We are responsible for not legislating it. Abortions exist, stop hiding them,” said Victory Front (FpV) Deputy Carolina Gaillard when introducing the initiative, which has the support of representatives from almost all political parties. Libres Del Sur’s Victoria Donda, Leftist Workers’ Front (FIT) Myriam Bregman and Progressive Front leader Margarita Stolbizer are among the high-profile deputies who also support the initiative.

The project would allow women from ages 13 and on to end their pregnancies during the first 14 weeks in both the public and private healthcare systems.

Shortly after the initiative was presented, Human Rights Secretary Claudio Avruj said legalizing abortion could be an “alternative”: “It’s an alternative that has to be very well looked into and very well regulated. The administration has to develop policies to take care of women and mothers. I believe it’s an alternative. We deserve to have a debate about it and reach a solution regarding the matter,” he said.

Avruj went on to say the government doesn’t have officials statistics regarding the number of deaths related to illegal abortions but admitted that numbers provided by various NGOs show that, “the number of women who have died is very high.”

According to the national campaign for the right to have a safe, legal and free abortion, between 460,000 and 600,000 illegal abortions are performed every year in the country, making it the main cause of death to mothers.

Claudio Avruj. Photo via
Claudio Avruj. Photo via

President Mauricio Macri, on his end, has made it clear several times he is against abortion: “I defend life from conception to death,” he assured in a speech in the Eucharistic National Congress on June 19. During his times as mayor of the City of Buenos Aires, however, Macri was one of the few mayors or governors to abide by a Supreme Court ruling that amended the law to allow all rape victims to have access to legal abortions (we’ll get to that in a bit).

What’s Argentina’s Policy On Abortion?

Currently, Article 85 of the nation’s criminal code establishes that a woman who causes or consents to having an abortion may face a prison term ranging from one to four years. A person who administers an abortion may face prison for three to 10 years if he or she acts without the woman’s consent, and for one to four years if he or she acts with the woman’s consent. The only circumstances under which abortion is not a criminal offense are, according to Article 86, the following:

  • There’s a danger to the mother’s life or health.
  • The pregnancy was the result of rape or abuse committed against a woman who is mentally incapacitated. In this case, a person speaking on the woman’s behalf must give consent to abort.

A 2012 Supreme Court ruling amended the law to allow all rape victims – not just mentally disabled women – to legally abort. However, rape victims must provide signed affidavits declaring they were raped.

According to an article published by Clarín, civil rights associations have determined that out of the country’s 25 jurisdictions, only eight respect the court’s ruling while nine others have no protocols regarding abortion. The others make it difficult for women to access non-punishable abortions.