On Friday, two commissions in the Tucumán sent a bill to the provincial Legislature floor that, if approved on the floor, would have banned abortions even if they were a result of rape. The public outrage over the weekend though was so big that the Family Committee and the Women’s Rights Committee, which originally cleared it for debate, reviewed their decision this week and decided to withdraw their support for it, thus killing it before it could reach the floor.
The Tucumán legislator who drafted the bill, Marcelo Caponio, has been working to get it passed since 2012, when he introduced it for the first time. The initial attempt died out relatively quickly. But after the discussion about the decriminalization of abortion that took place at a national level this year, and the surge of groups self-denominated as “pro-life,” especially in conservative provinces such as Tucumán, conditions became more favorable for these kinds of views. This time, the bill got 29 out of 49 signatures — more than enough to send it to the floor and submit it to a vote.
“It is necessary to reconcile and harmonize the rights of pregnant women,” said Caponio, “especially those of women who are victims of crimes against sexual integrity, with the human right to the life of the unborn child, and their guarantee of equality and non-discrimination.”
Currently, the law dictates that abortions are allowed if the health of the woman is at risk or if the pregnancy was due to rape.
Caponio argues that his bill would follow the laws laid down by the Argentina Constitution, despite conflicting with the current national stance on the issue.
“We respect all the rules and the provisions of the Constitution,” Caponio said. “We’re not going against any articles. We are moving forward not so that [this stance] is a declamation point, but so that the province sides with the woman and the child, and that their two lives are saved,” he added.
In spite of the decision to shut down the bill, there is still support for similar laws in the Executive branch. In an interview with Argentine newspaper La Nación in July, Vice President Gabriela Michetti stated that she did not approve of abortions even if the pregnancy was caused by rape. “I mean, you can adopt the baby and nothing happens to you,” said Michetti, who was on the receiving end of heavy backlash for the casual manner in which she addressed the sensible subject. President Macri, however, stands on the other side of the debate and even allowed for the issue to be debated in Congress.
Local feminist movements are taking the decision to shut down the bill in Tucumán as a step forward in their plight.
“This is a triumph, but we are not going to stop,” said Soledad Deza, a lawyer specializing in women’s rights. “We are experiencing joy but also a feeling of ambiguity — to have to be defensive of stolen rights despite living in times of a democracy. The truth is that we have to live in a state of permanent vigilance.”