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Live Coverage: With the Anti-Legalization Camp In the Lead, the Senate Votes on Abortion

Tallies indicate "blue" Senators have 38 votes, while "green" have 31.

By | [email protected] | August 8, 2018 10:04am

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[7:30 PM]

Clarín reports that, given it is almost certain the abortion bill will be struck down in the Senate, government officials are considering including the decriminalization of abortion as part of their broader initiative to reform the country’s criminal code. Today, Senators Omar Perotti and Lucila Crexell proposed voting a similar alternative to the original bill, but did not reach the necessary consensus.

If the government effectively moves forward, it would be the first sign – although to a lesser extent than the legalization bill – from the Executive branch of being in favor of expanding women’s right to choose over their own bodies.

Decriminalizing abortion would mean women would no longer be penalized by law if they have an abortion, but would only be able to resort to the public health system if their particular cases fit into the exceptions described by the “FAL” ruling [see below].

It is still unknown when the government will introduce the bill aimed at reforming the criminal code, but it will definitely be before 2020, when the legalization advocates indicate the bill passed by the Lower House could be debated again, when Congress renews representatives as a result of the 2019 elections.

[6:00 PM]

La Nación reports that all negotiations to debate a contingency bill aimed at decriminalizing abortion – rather than legalize it, as the main initiative proposes – have perished.

Considering that all indicators point at the original bill being struck down in the voting, the legal status of abortion at the end of the session will remain the same: criminalized, with the exception of the cases included in the “FAL” Supreme Court ruling, which more than half of the provinces do not apply despite it being mandatory.

[4:30 PM]

Ámbito reports that Omar Perotti (PJ-Santa Fe), the last Senator whose stance remained unknown, will not vote against the abortion legalization bill. “Sources close to him anticipated to press present at the Upper House that he will not vote against: he will either vote in favor or will abstain,” the report reads.

Perotti had hinted at this decision last night, introducing a bill of his own that, rather than legalizing abortion, would decriminalize it. The initiative would turn the “FAL” Supreme Court ruling into a law, and would ensure that all provinces implement the protocol that allows all rape victims — not just women with mental handicaps — to legally access abortion and the bureaucratic measures aimed at making sure women can effectively terminate their pregnancies.

The only requirement to access an abortion when the pregnancy is the result of rape or abuse is a signed affidavit from the victim declaring that is the case. “There’s no need for a formal complaint of the rape to authorities,” the protocol explains. “A judicial authorization is not necessary to perform the termination. A doctor confirming the case fits in one of the allowed causes is enough.”

When it comes to the health of the mother, the confirmation of illness is not required and there is no threshold of what a “danger” entails. The possibility of a potential risk to the woman’s health is enough and it is the person who decides what kind of risk she’s willing to take.

The other Senator whose stance is not completely known yet is Movimiento Popular Neuquino’s Lucila Crexell. Although she initially announced she would abstain, she also introduced a decriminalization bill of her own last night, hinting she could change her vote today.

[12:00 PM]

Aware of the slim chances the bill has of passing, the camp advocating for legalization will attempt to vote an initiative aimed at decriminalizing abortion if the one passed by the Lower House ends up being struck down. La Nación journalist Gabriel Sued reported that “green” senators intend to discuss one of the two bills introduced by Lucila Crexell (Movimiento Popular Neuquino – Neuquén) and Omar Perotti (PJ-Santa Fe). Before introducing her bill, Crexell had announced she would abstain, while Perotti decided to not make his stance public until his turn to speak in the session.

However, they will face a tough hurdle even before proposing any of the two bills: representatives from the opposing camp are likely to argue they will need the support of two thirds of the Senators present in the session to even debate them, and given that many of them are completely opposed to any change to the status quo, the chances of getting to the number are slim. The pro-legalization camp, in contrast, will base their case on another article of the Congressional rulebook and argue they only need half plus one of the present Senators.

Nonetheless, even if they emerge victorious of the technical battle, they will still have to convince three Senators who voted against the bill presented by the Campaign for Safe, Legal and Free abortion, so the voting goes from 37 to 31 – plus the votes of Crexell and Perotti – against legalization, to 36-34 in favor of decriminalization, providing these two Senators vote in favor of their own bills.

[11:oo AM]

Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal also weighed in on the historical debate this morning, confirming she is against the bill aimed at legalizing abortion. “If it’s not passed today, I will be more relieved tomorrow,” she said in an interview with Radio Mitre. Although at first she avoided delineating her position regarding the issue, in line with the decision made by President Mauricio Macri, Vidal made her position clear last month. A fervent Catholic, she posed for a selfie with a ‘pro-life’ protestor while holding the blue scarf that has become the symbol of the anti-abortion movement, during a Te deum service in La Plata’s Cathedral on July 9th.

This, however, was the first time in which she vocally expressed her opinion. Vidal went on to question the bill, saying it would be “hard to implement” in the province she administers. “In terms of resources, it is impossible to know how much it will cost to the province,” because “we don’t know how many clandestine abortions are practiced,” added Vidal, who nonetheless clarified that in the unlikely scenario where the bill is passed, she will make sure her administration implements the law.

[10:35 AM]

After raising the Argentine flag and listening to the national anthem, the Upper House officially kicked off a session that is expected to last over twelve hours. Senators are already delivering their respective addresses, justifying their stances.

You can follow the debate live here:

[10:20 AM]

In a press statement released before the beginning of the session, President Mauricio Macri addressed the abortion debate but, in line with the stance he has taken since the start, avoided giving a personal opinion and instead highlighted its contribution to democracy.

In the text, titled “no matter the result, today democracy will win,” the President said that even if the different opinions heard during the debate weren’t able to “persuade those who think differently,” they “made many Argentines reflect on a subject upon which they did not have a clear stance, and brought to light several others that were not part of the public conversation.”

The release goes on to assure that the voting “goes far beyond the specific subject it’s attempting to solve,” as it shows the possibility of debating in a “peaceful scenario to promote and make changes,” and “forces us as individuals to commit to accept there are others who think differently.”

In what could be interpreted as an implicit consideration about about abortion being legalized in the near future, Macri states that “the deep and incessant changes we will have to make throughout this century will be a spectacular challenge to our tolerance.”

“No one will get exactly what they seek for all the time. We will always live in an uncomfortable place where something will not be like we might want it to,” it adds, before concluding by saying that “if we understand that sometimes our beliefs will win and others will lose, we will reach an incomparable scenario: being truly free and better people.”

NO IMPORTA CUÁL SEA EL RESULTADO, HOY GANARÁ LA DEMOCRACIALa votación que se llevará a cabo hoy en el Senado es…

Posted by Mauricio Macri on Wednesday, August 8, 2018

 

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Today, Argentina’s Upper House will begin debating the bill aimed at legalizing abortion, which was approved by the Lower House on June 14th. According to most current tallies and public statements made by Senators, the camp opposing the initiative has a substantial lead: 38 votes out of the chamber’s 72 members, versus the 31 votes from those who support legalization.

The scenario concerning the three remaining Senators is the following: Omar Perotti (PJ-Santa Fe) is the only one who has decided to keep his stance secret ahead of the vote, after José Alperovich (PJ-Tucumán) confirmed this morning that he will vote against the bill. However, he introduced an initiative of his own aimed at legalizing abortion last night. Although it differs from the one that is up for the vote today, it could be an indicator about an intention to vote in favor.

Movimiento Popular Neuquino Senator Lucila Crexell initially announced she would abstain, but same as Perotti, she introduced a modified legalization bill of her own. María Eugenia Catalfano (PJ-San Luis) will be the only Senator to not attend the session, having taken a leave of absence a as a result of her pregnancy.

Since pro-legalization Senators failed to muster enough votes to pass a modified bill aimed at getting the support of undecided colleagues last week, the chamber will debate the bill that was approved by the Lower House on June 14th. However, speaking on behalf of the undecided group, Senator Carlos Caserio (PJ-Córdoba) announced they would vote in favor of the bill regardless, to then be able to introduce the intended modifications.

If the initiative is effectively rejected, lawmakers won’t be able to introduce another one until the following legislative period – which begins in March 2019. However, representatives of the “green tide” have indicated that if this is the case, their new goal will be passing it in 2020, after the 2019 general elections, where half of the Chamber of Deputies and a third of the Upper House will be renewed.

Representatives of the groups advocating for legalization, under the umbrella of the Campaign for Safe, Legal, and Free abortion, have been actively calling for supporters of legalization to take the streets today, their goal being to amass 2 million people and effectively put final pressure on the Senators.

Their counterparts on the other ideological side have been conducting marches and activities of their own, with the Catholic Church as the primary organizer. In fact, Church members are set to hold a mass in the Buenos Aires City Cathedral – not far from Congress – at 8 PM today, close to the moment when the voting is expected to take place.