Argentina on brink of historic vote to legalise abortion

Senate debates bill that would make it first major Latin American country to allow terminations

Argentina is on the verge of making history as the first major Latin American country to legalise abortion.

Its 72-member senate convened on Tuesday to debate a bill that was approved by the lower house earlier this month to the delight of pro-choice activists.

Pro-choice and anti-abortion campaigners have gathered in the plaza near Buenos Aires’s congress building. A vote is expected in the early hours of Wednesday.

Projections in Argentinian media suggest the “green” camp pushing for change holds a slender advantage over its “blue” opponents: 33 senators reportedly plan to back the legislation while 32 will vote against it. Five senators are officially undecided.

Mariela Belski, Amnesty International’s executive director in Argentina, said she was confident the “voluntary interruption of pregnancy” bill would be approved, sending a loud message to a region with some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws. “The numbers look very good,” she said.

Belski said she felt overjoyed and excited about what would be the culmination of a decades-long struggle by women’s rights activists.

“The day after tomorrow this country will be a much better place than before,” she said on Monday. “This country will be better for my daughter and for the younger generations, so I’m really happy this is going to happen.”

Claudia Piñeiro, a writer and pro-choice activist, said: “This will be a transcendental and unforgettable moment, something we’ve been waiting for at the end of a very hard year for everybody.

“I only hope the senate realises that there is no turning back now. The women’s movement will not allow them to decide any longer about our bodies, about our health, or continue to oblige us to resort to clandestine abortions.

“We still have to endure their senseless arguments that we need to have children to populate the nation, as if we were nothing more than reproduction machines, nothing more than a uterus. This is going to change tomorrow. I have no doubt about it.”

A previous attempt to legalise abortion was voted down by Argentina’s senate in August 2018, with many blaming the then president Mauricio Macri’s failure to support the change.

This time, however, the country’s leftwing leader, Alberto Fernández, and his vice-president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, have championed the legislation and reportedly been battling to convince senators to back the bill.

The political analyst Andrés Malamud said two key things had changed since the 2018 vote. “One is that the government now has a majority in the senate,” he said. “And the second most important thing is that Argentina’s current president Alberto Fernández is behind the bill, because legal abortion was an electoral promise.”

While activists are optimistic, Malamud said it would be impossible to predict the result until the last minute.

“Although the government holds the majority vote, some of its senators will probably vote against the bill. The outcome will then depend on the pro-abortion minority within the opposition’s bloc, who are delaying announcing how they’ll vote just to deny the government the political success of passing abortion for as long as possible.”


Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent and Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Argentina set to become first major Latin American country to legalise abortion
President Alberto Fernández says he intends to put a bill before congress in next 10 days

Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires

01, Mar, 2020 @8:29 PM

Article image
Argentina moves closer to historic abortion legalization
A pro-abortion movement, symbolized by a green handkerchief, has swept through Latin America, where abortion is punishable by law

Uki Goñi

09, Dec, 2020 @10:00 AM

Article image
Argentina holds historic abortion vote as 1m women rally to demand change
Senate votes on bill opposed by Catholic church and pope that would legalise abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy

Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires

08, Aug, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
Argentina abortion defeat shows enduring power of Catholic church
Irish vote to legalise procedure was seen as blow to church’s authority, but its power has merely shifted south

Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent

09, Aug, 2018 @10:30 AM

Article image
Argentina legalises abortion in landmark moment for women's rights
Country becomes only the third in South America to permit elective abortions

Tom Phillips , Latin America correspondent, and Amy Booth and Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires

30, Dec, 2020 @10:35 AM

Article image
‘These are not crimes’: women in Argentina facing jail for obstetric emergencies
Women who experience stillbirths, miscarriages and other complications are still being punished for alleged abortions

Natalie Alcoba in Buenos Aires

07, Dec, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Latin America's fight to legalise abortion: the key battlegrounds
After Argentina rejected a bill to allow abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, hopes of reform now rest elsewhere

Annie Kelly

09, Aug, 2018 @2:01 PM

Article image
Argentina congress takes historic step towards legalising abortion
Lower house votes 129-123 to allow abortion in first 14 weeks and if senate approves bill President Macri has said he will sign it

Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires

14, Jun, 2018 @4:25 PM

Article image
Argentina's new president vows to legalise abortion
Campaigners hail Alberto Fernández’s pledge to oversee U-turn in official policy

Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires

17, Nov, 2019 @7:03 PM

Article image
Girl, 11, gives birth to child of rapist after Argentina says no to abortion
Campaigners condemn authorities who ignored girl’s plea ‘to remove what the old man put inside me’

Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires

01, Mar, 2019 @7:42 AM