On June 14th, the Congress voted yes on a bill that seeks to not only provide women with safe and legal abortion as part of the free public healthcare system, but which would also expand reproductive and sexual education in schools and increase access to contraceptives. Now, the bill passes to the Senate, which is currently debating the topic and will make its final decision on August 8th.
Unsurprisingly, the debate has gendered much controversy, with many people lashing back violently against the prospect of decriminalizing and legalizing abortion. One of these people was Stella Maris Escalada, a nurse from the province of Santa Fe who posted a controversial Facebook status on July 4th calling nurses in the country to make women who decide to undergo abortions “suffer” during the procedure if Argentina does ultimately choose to legalize it.
“To all my colleagues, if they approve abortion I invite you all to make women suffer with our procedures without killing them, only pain a lot of pain, the same mercy that they show in killing a baby we must show these murderers. We know how. Let’s do it,” wrote Escalada on her Facebook wall.
Criticism and reports flagging her post didn’t take long to arrive. A number of women’s rights organizations and activists, as well as other individuals who had seen the post, quickly reported the nurse. Perla Prigoshin, the head of Consavig, the National Coordinating Committee of Actions for the Elaboration of Sanctions of Gender Violence, told Clarín that she received several reports about the incident.
According to Prigoshin, upon hearing about the incident, Consavig immediately sent a note to Miara Andre Uboldi, Santa Fe’s Minister of Health, and prosecutor Mariela Labozzetta, the head of UFEM, the Specialized Unit for Violence Against Women.
Uboldi made it clear straight away that she condemned the Facebook publication, but also emphasized that the nurse had retired ten years ago and was not currently working in the healthcare system.
Regardless, the post is still unsettling to many in Argentina, especially to those fighting for women’s rights. In a country where many areas are still highly hostile to women who seek abortions, many wonder if—even if Argentina fully legalizes abortion—all women will truly be able to fully exercise their rights to a safe procedure, or if threats such as these will look over their heads for decades to come.