—Francisca Pou Giménez, ITAM, Mexico City
[Editor’s note: This is one of our biweekly I-CONnect columns. Columns, while scholarly in accordance with the tone of the blog and about the same length as a normal blog post, are a bit more “op-ed” in nature than standard posts. For more information about our four columnists for 2018, see here.]
Today, the Argentinian Senate will be holding an historic vote on the legalization of abortion in the country. The debate and the vote in the Senate is the second stage of a parliamentary process that started in the Chamber of Deputies, where the bill under consideration was approved last June 14, by a very tight majority and after an electrifying, marathon session filled with uncertainty as to the results up until the very last moment.
The bill legalizes abortion during the first 14 weeks, and decriminalizes it after that point in case of rape, health risks for the woman, and fetal malformation. It allows for the exercise of conscientious objection by individual medical personnel, yet states that health care providers must at all times enjoy the means to carry out legal abortions. The legislation now in force dates to 1921 and decriminalizes abortion in case of rape and threats to the health or life of the woman, but even after an important ruling by the Argentinian Supreme Court in 2013, which underlined the non-negligible space that legal abortion enjoys if the criminal code is properly interpreted under applicable constitutional and treaty provisions, safe and affordable abortion has continued to be largely unavailable to Argentinian women.
After the vote in the Chamber of Deputies, which was accompanied by unprecedented social mobilizations under the coordination of the National Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, there have been also strong mobilizations on the part of the Catholic Church, as well as politicians and social movements that oppose the bill and strive to prevent its final passage. Debate in the Senate commissions has been partly sensitive to these criticisms and has led to the drafting of a modified text which cuts the period of legal interruption from 14 to 12 weeks, suppresses the penalties applicable to doctors refusing to practice legal abortions and, far more dangerously, grants to institutions —and not just individuals— the right to conscientious objection. The plenum of the Senate is set to debate and vote on either the modified bill or the original Deputies’ proposal —there seems to be a technical discussion under way on this question— today, August 8, 2018.
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