In the final sprint of the pre-vote abortion debates, legislators are beginning to make final decisions and solidify their position in the yes-camp or the no-camp, giving us a better idea of the likelihood that the bill will pass or not. On Sunday, Senator from La Pampa Juan Carlos Marino announced he would vote against the bill, consolidating 35 votes for the anti-abortion block.
“After analyzing it, I have decided not to go with the bill on the voluntary interruption of pregnancy,” said the Senator according to Clarín. “When the debate in the Senate began, I announced that I would take my time to study the issue and above all to listen to the people of La Pampa but that my decision would be known before the debate on the floor, and so I am sharing it. I do not speculate as some of the other members did. I approached the issue with the seriousness it deserves.”
Although the likelihood that bill to decriminalize and legalize abortion will pass is looking slim, its future is still unclear. As one pro-life Senator noted, “We don’t have any votes to lose. We cannot be calm.” For either side, the key to success lies in the decision of five undecided legislators: Ángel Rozas (UCR-Chaco), José Alperovich (PJ-Tucumán), Inés Blas (PJ-Catamarca), Omar Perotti PJ-Santa Fe), and Juan Carlos Romero (Frente Popoular-Salta). They will be the force that tips the scale and determines whether or not the bill is rejected, sent to Macri’s desk, or returned to the Lower House, where it narrowly passed last month.
The Senate comprises 72 legislators, making 38 the magic number for either side to reach a majority. However, with absences and abstentions, that number changes. It is certain that María Eugenia Catalfamo, will (ironically) be absent from the vote due to her pregnancy; and Lucila Crexell recently announced that she would abstain. There are also rumors that former president Carlos Ménem will not be present at the session. With one absence and at least one abstention, a vote would be decided by only 36 senators—just one less than the anti-abortion block has already confirmed.
Ménem could be the extra vote they need, and Senators from the pro-life block have assured that he will be present and will vote “no.” Another key figure is Vice President Gabriela Michetti, who, as Senate Leader, would cast a tie-breaking vote in the case of a 35-35 split. She has stated that it such a scenario, she would vote against the bill.
Today and tomorrow, the pro-life and pro-choice camps will meet to define their strategies moving forward; on Wednesday each side must issue their formal opinion. What does a path to passage look like for the bill’s supporters?
First, they will have to decide if it will be necessary to make changes to the bill in order to win over the vote of those five undecided Senators. Carlos Caserio, Ernesto Martinez, and Laura Rodríguez Machado have already proposed several changes; however, even more could be necessary to consolidate a majority in favor of the bill.
So, the passage of the law to legalize abortion is possible. If the “green” Senators can reconcile their differing opinions and compromise on changes, it could pass. If there aren’t any other absences or abstentions on August 8th, it could pass. If Michetti isn’t left with the final call, it could pass. We’ll have a better idea by Wednesday, when the final version of the bill the be voted on is released. But in a political atmosphere filled with ‘ifs,’ only time will tell.