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Abortion Debate: Hearings End as Vote in Lower House Commission Looms Large

By | [email protected] | June 1, 2018 11:00am

Abortion Debate: Hearings End as Vote in Lower House Commission Looms Large

After almost two months and the statements of 700 people who spoke both in favor and against decriminalization of abortion, the first part of the debate is over. The deputy members of the four commissions involved in the debate – general legislation, criminal legislation, family affairs, and health affairs – will now have to vote on the bill favored by the National Campaign for Legal, Free and Safe Abortion on June 12th which, if passed, will be sent to the floor and debated the following day.

Yesterday’s hearing garnered particular attention not only because it was the final one, but also because National Health Minister Adolfo Rubinstein gave a presentation in favor of decriminalization and, in contrast, a high-profile priest who works in shantytowns (villas) known as “Padre Pepe” made some remarks in his address that raised more than a few eyebrows.

Let’s break it down.

Minister Rubinstein based his argument on official figures, saying that “abortion exists and it is something we cannot overlook, regardless of all ethical, scientific, moral, economic, and spiritual dilemmas that may ensue.” “The countries with restrictive legal frameworks have not reduced the number of abortion, only increased the unsafe ones,” Rubinstein said.

The minister went on to say that “there is extremely robust evidence showing that decriminalization of abortion reduces maternal death rates and the total number of abortions.” “In the countries with restrictive laws, the rates stayed the same. There is a clear relation between decriminalization and the number of abortions [performed],” he added.

Minister Rubinstein. Photo via Clarín.

Minister Rubinstein. Photo via Clarín.

In stark contrast, José María Di Paola, popularly known as “Padre Pepe” set aside arguments concerning health, or the debate about the moment of conception, and outlined a theory with political implications. “Abortion is IMF and IMF is abortion,” said the priest, indicating that in its negotiations for a stand-by agreement with the Macri administration, the international organization demanded the government legislate the matter.

“Abortion is a synonym of the IMF, whether the conservative world likes it or not. This same world does not dislike the idea of poor people having fewer children or not having them at all. Pseudo-progressive people have the same idea, even though they claim to defend freedom. They know this genocide is inspired and promoted by the IMF,” he said.

“Padre Pepe” had already expressed a similar idea when, along with other other priests working inshantytowns, signed a letter assuring that sectors advocating for decriminalization use the argument about the current legal status affecting 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.

Although the time for presentations is over, the 11 days remaining until the voting in commission could bring new updates regardless. According to La Nación, deputies pushing for decriminalization are analyzing proposing a series of changes to the bill in an attempt to garner the support of deputies who have not made up their minds yet.

As it stands, the bill sets out that the public and private health systems must incorporate abortions into the services that they offer. Furthermore, the language in the draft legislation sets out that abortions do not require prior judicial authorization, and that they must take place in a period no greater than five days after it is requested.

Abortions would require the prior, written, and informed consent of the woman seeking the procedure. According to the language in the bill, consent is considered valid from age 13 onward. The consent of one parent or a legal guardian is required in situations where the person seeking an abortion is younger than 13.

These are the most relevant changes that, according to the news site, deputies are considering. The first one involves the so-called ‘conscious objector’ figure, and would allow doctors to refuse to perform an abortion on a patient, under two conditions: they would have to previously sign up in a registry, and the health centers in which they work would have to ensure there is another professional available and willing to perform it.

This initiative would surely lead deputies of the leftist workers front to withdraw their support, but increase the chances of having many others join the camp.

Another aspect concerns the fact that, as it is, the bill would authorize teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 to have an abortion without their parents’ – or guardians’ – authorization. Deputies are analyzing changing it so as to make the authorization mandatory.

The campaign for legal, free, and safe abortion has scheduled several protests and demonstrations in the run up to the event.