The bill to legalize and decriminalize abortion will not pass through the Senate unscathed. In a meeting yesterday, even the most staunchly pro-choice block of Senators—who before might have rejected even the removal of a comma from the original text—have begun discussions on what modifications are necessary in order to win over the wavering legislators and pass the bill into law.
As it stands, the bill currently has 30 votes against and 26 in favor, according to Parlamentario.com (Clarín reports 33 against and 28 in favor). In order to prevent the proposal from being scrapped altogether by Senate rejection, pro-choice blocks are coming together Tuesday to agree on alterations, which would require another trip to the Lower House.
“What we want is that the law passes and not to lose all the progress made. One must negotiate modifications, not only between senators, but also with the deputies,” a Senator told Parlamentario.com.
Although there are ten Senators who haven’t taken an official stance, the key for the pañuelo-wearing legislators lies in the voting decision of five Senators: Laura Rodríguez Machado, Ernesto Martínez, Carlos Caserio, Guillermo Pereyra, and Eduardo Aguilar. If the pro-choice camp can win over this group, they would have 31 votes and be in a much better position to pass the bill.
“We will have to accept three or four changes. I see it as an urgent necessity in order to save the law, one must accept reality,” a Senator from the pro-choice Peronist block told La Nación. Among other things, the wording of the new bill: (1) reduces the time by which a woman can access an abortion from 14 to 12 weeks gestation; (2) acknowledges the right of institutional conscientious objection; (3) eliminates penalties like fines or jail time for physicians who refuse to perform an abortion; and (4) orders for the state production of misoprostol, a common drug used to induce abortions.
To read more about how these changes would affect the law, check out our analysis.
Although several changes will be discussed before presenting the proposal at the Commissions next Wednesday, a source from the Peronist block told Clarín, “The essence of the law is maintained.”
Decriminalization is safe
If an altered version of the Law on the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy passes in the Senate, it would return to the Lower House. Although it is unclear how the legislators would react to the changes, one thing is certain: decriminalization will remain part of the bill. According to the constitutional reform of 1994, the House cannot reject a proposal that they already approved.
That leaves the deputies with three options: accept all of the changes proposed by the Senate, incorporate only some of them, or insist on upholding the original bill. The latter two of these courses of action would require – yep, you guessed it – another vote in the Senate.
Clearly, the road to legal abortion in Argentina is looking to be long and complex. The rejection of the bill that passed in the Lower House on June 14th is so strong that not even the introduction of modifications guarantees that a bill will pass to legalize abortion in Argentina. “So, with these changes, the scene is one of parity; if we won, we would win by one vote.”