The historic voting regarding the decriminalization of abortion is just one day away, and as it rarely happens in Argentine legislative processes, the result is still completely uncertain. Since parties have allowed their deputies to vote in accordance with their conscience, the outcome is not conditioned to the approval of one large caucus or another. Each vote counts, especially considering that, according to the live count made available by Economía Femini(s)ta, at the time this article is being written 119 deputies will vote against the bill, 114 in favor, and 23 have not yet confirmed their stance.
That’s why the usually broad-scoped spotlight has been divided and is now focusing on single deputies, something that has led to particular cases surfacing, which have caused controversy and produced tangible consequences. One supposedly set to vote against the bill was accused of having forced a woman to have an abortion in the past; another flip-flopped twice in a span of just four days and was kicked out of the caucus of which he formed part; yet another who planned to vote against party lines faced such a backlash that he decided to go rogue.
Let’s take a look at each case in particular.
Pro-Lifer with an Alleged Abortion in the Closet
The always histrionic Argentine twittersphere was even more abuzz yesterday, when a woman called María Eugenia Suárez published a video accusing Cambiemos National Deputy Mario Arce – who announced he’d vote against the bill – of having forced her to get an abortion when they were dating 20 years ago.
El formoseño #MarioArce ya se pronunció: va a votar en contra de la Interrupción Voluntaria del Embarazo. Pero su ex pareja #MaríaEugeniaSuárez, artista plástica de la ciudad de Santa Fe, lo acusó de violento y de haberla obligado a abortar.#VotenAbortoLegal#DobleMoral pic.twitter.com/CO3oAbo0XZ
— FemiNACIDA (@femiNACIDA) June 11, 2018
In the video, Suárez said she dated Arce between 1997 and 1998, during which he exercised “physical and psychological violence” on her and “forced her to have a clandestine abortion in a private clinic.” “Arce embodies the hypocrisy of those who claim to defend life. He decided over my body and now intends to decide with his vote over the body and life of thousands of women throughout the country. He does not have any moral, ethical or political authority to do so,” she said. Arce has denied all accusation and, so far, is still set to vote against the bill.
Twp Flip-Flops in Four Days
On the dawn of the debate, Deputy of Mendoza’s Partido Intransigente José Luis Ramón announced he would vote against decriminalization. However, in an interview with Clarín published last Friday, he said that despite still being personally against it, he would vote in favor.
“It is an extremely delicate issue, because some members of society can access [abortions] in a clandestine yet safe manner, but some others cannot. I have a personal stance, but another one has to do with the fact that I am a national deputy and have to think about the amount of people who can’t terminate a pregnancy in a safe manner. The bill supports that idea and that’s why I am no longer undecided. It is a public health issue,” he said when justifying his new decision.
Four days later, he flip-flopped again. In a video uploaded to his social media accounts, he said that after “going through an extremely long and tortuous path, which generated many doubts,” he changed his mind again. “What is being discussed right now concerns the termination of life. And the life of someone who has been conceived,” he says in a passage of the video. “That’s why I will vote against [the bill], without paying attention to any kind of pressure. Because you know what, I am not at the center of this discussion, life is,” says Ramón, who concludes the video with a long, troubled sigh.
He decidido votar en contra de la Ley que busca despenalizar el aborto. Entiendo que no soy el centro de todo esto: … ¡es la vida! https://t.co/zoIy6ubdRe
— Jose Luis Ramon (@jlramonar1) June 11, 2018
The 360 spin got Ramón expelled from the caucus to which he belongs, led by former Argentine Ambassador to the US Martín Lousteau. In a TV interview, Lousteau said the reason for the expulsion didn’t have to do with his decision, but because “the way in which he behaved is not up to the level of the debate, nor the standards we expect of members of our caucus.”
“It is clear that, there being so much at stake, people are subjected to pressure. From both sides. Let’s hope the deputy did not make his decision influenced by these pressures, or even worse, as a result of political speculation,” he said.
Deputy Leaves the Party he Represents to Vote in Accordance with Personal Convictions
Most parties don’t have an institutional stance concerning this issue. But others do, and Santa Fe’s Partido Socialista is one of them. In favor of decriminalization, the party is represented by Luis Contigiani in the Lower House. However, Contigiani announced he will vote against the bill, in accordance with his personal beliefs. This decision generated a great deal of controversy, prompting party officials – including Santa Fe Governor Miguel Lifschitz – and supporters to call him out to vote along the values of the party he was chosen to represent, and not his own.
However, Contigiani kept refusing and yesterday decided to go rogue, creating his own caucus. He no longer represents the Partido Socialista, but the Frente Progresista Civico y Social.
The four commissions in the Lower House will vote today on whether to send the bill put forward by the Campaign for Legal, Free and Safe abortion. If approved – as expected – the Lower House will begin debating the bill tomorrow and probably vote on it in the early hours of Thursday.