President of Argentina Introduces Bill to Legalize Abortion

By Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues

The center-left president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, presented a bill to legalize abortion to the Chamber of Deputies. 

The legislation—Regulation of access to voluntary interruption of pregnancy and post-abortion care— was drawn up by the ministries of Health and Women, Gender and Diversity in coordination with the Legal and Technical Secretariat of the Presidency. Two days of hearings were held by the committees on General Legislation, Health and Social Action, Women and Diversities, and Criminal Legislation with presentations from scientific, health, ethical-religious and judicial experts. 

The President hopes to legalize abortion by the end of the 2020 legislative session, which his government extended to January 3, 2021, with the Chamber of Deputies voting on the legislation by December 10 and followed immediately by action in the more conservative Senate. Currently in Argentina, the home country of Pope Francis, abortion is legal only if there is a severe threat to the mother’s health or if the child was conceived in rape.

The legislation would legalize free abortion upon request under any circumstance in public and private hospitals for girls as young as 13 up until week 14 of pregnancy, and then up to the ninth month for cases of rape or endangerment to the “physical or mental” health of the mother. A “conscience objection” clause is included for health care professionals who oppose abortion but they will still be required to refer women seeking abortion to colleagues not opposed to abortion.

During an interview about the bill, President Fernández said it would have the necessary votes to pass and he believes that the debate is not about “abortion yes or no”, but “under what conditions are abortions performed”. It was reported that he accused pro-lifers of wanting “clandestine abortions to continue” saying, “those of us who say ‘yes to abortion,’ what we want is for abortions to be performed in appropriate sanitary conditions.”

Gines Gonzales Garcia, Argentina’s health minister, in controversial testimony before the committee said, “Here there are not two lives as some say.” He continued in ignorance of the scientific facts calling the unborn child “a phenomenon”: “There’s clearly a single person and the other [thing] is a phenomenon. If it were not like that, we would be facing the greatest universal genocide, [because] more than half the civilized world allows it.” PNCI notes that only 67 countries globally allow abortion on demand and the death of unborn children is the true genocide. 

Deputy Francisco Sánchez responded to the health minister by demanding his resignation for the “aberrant denial of the life of the unborn child” from the moment of conception, and for denying “the scientific evidence and the international treaties to which Argentina adheres”. He wrote in an official letter, “This statement is not only erroneous and inhumane, it has the clear intention of denying the existence of life to justify its subsequent elimination through the legalization of abortion, even up to the ninth month of pregnancy.” 

Read more here, including about Pope Francis’ letter to members of the women’s network who asked for his help defeating the legalization of abortion.