As both sides of the debate ramp up their activity in anticipation of the vote on August 8, another public letter has been published calling for Senators to pass the bill to legalize and decriminalize abortion in Argentina.Following Margaret Atwood’s intensely powerful public letter last week, in which she warned that Argentina was on the brink of becoming a ‘slave state’, this week it’s the turn of Argentina’s intellectuals to turn their focus to the abortion debate.
In the ‘Public Letter for the Sanction of the Law of Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy’ published yesterday, writers, artists, and researchers implored the Senate to pass the bill, calling on them to honor the wishes of the “hundreds of thousands of women in the streets,” asking that they react to the mass mobilization that this debate has inspired. Among the 8,000 signatures amassed in just two days are some of the most prominent names of Argentina’s intelligentsia, including playwright Patricia Zangaro, writer Beatriz Sarlo, and singer Víctor Heredia, among others.
This letter demonstrates the altogether more peaceful tactics adopted by the pro-choice movement than those favored by the bill’s critics. While the pro-life movement grows increasingly belligerent in its activities, the campaign to legalize abortion has been marked by a decidedly non-violent approach based on campaigning, intellectual reasoning, and peaceful protest.
This being a letter written by intellectuals, it opens by reveling in the debate generated by this bill: “The debate in favor of the law for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy has enriched us as a society,” the letter reads. “It has helped to eliminate taboos, to deconstruct prejudices, to revert dogmatisms and naturalizations.” The younger generations, oft-criticized for their apathy, have been awakened to the importance of political involvement by this issue, which has seen even school-children take to the streets in protest.
The letter recognizes that the fact that the bill passed through the Lower House represents a huge step in the advancement of women’s rights in Argentina, and how what was once viewed as simply a “women’s issue” has now gathered national traction. “The leading role that the debate took in our society and the mass mobilization of women and young people have shaped a social demand which is also a pressing issue in matters of public health,” the letter reads. “It will be the opportunity to do away with the long and sad history of clandestine abortions, which have claimed the lives of thousands of women from the most vulnerable sectors of our society.”
Furthermore, the letter calls on Senators to recognise that there is a regional shift toward the legalization of abortion that cannot be ignored. It cites Argentine and Latin American jurisprudence as proof of international on this issue, in cases such as the “F.A.L. Case,” in which the Argentine Supreme Court ruled that to allow abortion in the case of rape, the “Artavia Murillo Case,” where the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Costa Rica to re-establish the legality of IVF, and the “Baby Boy Case,” where the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decided that abortion would be a lawful exception to the right to life.
Finally, the authors address long-held opposition to the bill, that abortion goes against Catholic doctrine. They allude to the recent referendum in Ireland to repeal the Eighth Amendment, saying that this bill is the opportunity to afford Argentine women “the same rights as other women in other countries around the world, including those where a significant proportion of the population identifies as religious.” It implies that if such a staunchly Catholic country as Ireland can legalize abortion, they why can’t (theoretically) secular Argentina?
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While there is no shortage of historical evidence in the letter, it is not simply a cold statement of fact. Instead, the letter is an emotive call to the Senate to recognize this “historic opportunity” and demonstrates the extent of public involvement in the bill. The organizers of the initiative told Clarín that the aim was to highlight “the social phenomenon of all the people who feel involved in the debate and feel the desire to take a position and influence this parliamentary decision.”
This letter comes just as the Senate takes their winter recess, although public sessions will continue during this two-week period. In the face of such a well-reasoned and clearly articulated letter, it would seem nigh on impossible to find a legitimate reason to reject the bill. However, as the pro-life movement also increases its campaigning, it remains to be seen which side will win out in the end.