A bill calling for the decriminalization and legalization of abortions in the first 14 weeks of gestation has been formally tabled in the Lower House of Congress with support from 71 lawmakers from across the political spectrum.
The bill, based on the model legislation favored by the National Campaign for Legal, Free and Safe Abortions, 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.
Currently abortions are considered illegal and subject to criminal prosecution except in the cases of a threat to the life of the woman, or in cases of pregnancy as a result of rape or sexual abuse of a woman with mental disability. The bill sets out that there is no time limit for abortions in the cases of rape, abuse, threat to the women’s health or physical integrity, or in the cases of severe fetal malformations.
Abortions would require the prior, written and informed consent of the woman seeking the abortion. 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.
“The current bill has as its objective to generate conditions of legality so that women who live in the country have equal access to the medical practices that guarantee a Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy (Interrupción Voluntaria del Embarazo, IVE) in a safe and free way. In the year 2010 the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) published its review of the Argentine situation and it highlighted that the primary violation of the human rights of women today is the decriminalization of abortion, due to the number of deaths it generates, and recommended that both the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches had the responsibility to implement public policies to prevent those deaths” reads one of the paragraphs in the preamble of the bill.
Lawmakers Romina del Plá (Frente de Izquierda), Mónica Macha (Frente para la Victoria), Brenda Austin (Unión Cívica Radical) and Victoria Donda (Libres del Sur) are the lead co-sponsors of the bill, which has received support from members of the PRO, UCR, Frente para la Victoria, Justicialista, Frente Renovador, FIT, Evolución, and Movimiento Evita caucuses so far. Most of these caucuses are split, as party lines have become blurred.
No less than 129 votes are required for the Lower House to approve a bill and pro-abortion campaigners are currently building coalitions and seeking support from undecided lawmakers. While the bill was formally tabled last night, and will be launched with a rally today, debate in committee is likely to take months. Specialists on both sides of the debate will be presenting their positions at multiple committee meetings.
The push for a debate in Congress on abortion – yesterday marked the seventh time that the bill decriminalizing abortion has been tabled since 2007 – is further to the decision by President Mauricio Macri to encourage what he calls a “mature and respectful” debate on the matter and the sustained activism by groups like the Campaign for Legal Abortions.
Macri and other top Cambiemos officials have indicated that they do not support the decriminalization of abortion and last week Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña would not be drawn on whether Macri would veto a potential law to that effect. Provided that the bill makes it out of committee and is approved on the floor of the Lower House, it will have to face a sterner test in the Senate.