History was made in Argentina today when the Senate finally legalized abortion, following decades of struggle from the country’s pro-choice movement and a painfully close miss in the previous attempt in 2018.
The result was wider than expected, with 38 votes in support of the bill and only 29 against it, after the government made efforts throughout the last month to ensure that enough conservative allied senators switched sides or abstained.
“Safe, legal and free abortion is now a law. This is what I promised during the campaign. Today we are a better society, with more rights for women and granting public health. Delivering on promises is what politics should be about,” President Alberto Fernández tweeted shortly after the vote.
El aborto seguro, legal y gratuito es ley.
A ello me comprometí que fuera en los días de campaña electoral.
Hoy somos una sociedad mejor que amplía derechos a las mujeres y garantiza la salud pública.
Recuperar el valor de la palabra empeñada. Compromiso de la política. pic.twitter.com/cZRy179Zrj
— Alberto Fernández (@alferdez) December 30, 2020
The night-long session was presided by his vice-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who also moved to the pro-choice side of the discussion after opposing legalization during her presidency. The wide margin of the result, however, meant that her vote was not necessary for a potential tie-breaker, as some had expected.
Outside Congress, and in many other cities across the nation, tens of thousands of women jubilantly celebrated when the giant screens showed the result of the vote.
Although pro-choice activism has a long history in Argentina, it was the feminist wave seen since a 2015 campaign focused on violence against women, known as Ni Una Menos, that created the momentum for the subsequent abortion legalization attempts.
Seeing the pro-choice tide rising, former president Mauricio Macri gave the green light to Congress to discuss legalization in 2018 despite personally opposing it. Then-Senator Fernández de Kirchner, meanwhile, said during that debate that she had changed her mind due to the “thousands and thousands of women marching in the street.”
Argentina has now become the highest-populated Latin American country in which on-demand abortion is legal, with Uruguay and Cuba the only other two cases, as well as some areas of Mexico.
Despite being the land of Pope Francis, the pressure for legalization proved larger than any conservative religious impulse, in a country that had already shown to be a regional pioneer in similar social reforms such as gay marriage and trans rights.