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

Argentina is on track to become the first major Latin American country to legalise abortion.

Its president, Alberto Fernández, said on Sunday that he intends to send a legal abortion bill to congress in the next 10 days.

“The state must protect its citizens in general and women in particular,” he said in his first annual address to congress. “Society in the 21st century needs to respect the individual choice of its members to freely decide about their bodies.”

Abortion is illegal across most of Latin America. In a predominantly Roman Catholic region of 21 countries, it is legal only in Cuba and Uruguay, with populations of 11.2 and 3.4 million respectively. It is also legal in Anglican Guyana, population 780,000.

Should congress approve the bill, Argentina – with a population of 45 million – will become the first major nation in the region to legalise the practice.

A previous bill to legalise abortion was defeated in August 2018 following what campaigners allege was a failure by Mauricio Macri, then the president, to throw his support behind it and the church’s strong opposition. This time, however, the bill is being presented by the president, and with the governing party’s support.

Argentina’s women’s rights activists, who have long campaigned for abortion to be legal, warmly welcomed Fernández’s announcement.

“We are very happy; today is a historic day,” the writer and campaigner Ana Correa said. “The decriminalisation and legalisation of abortion is finally within reach. Let’s hope that congress is up to the role assigned to it.”

The right to an abortion is severely restricted across Latin America. Terminations are only permitted in cases of rape or if the pregnancy will endanger the life of the pregnant woman, as in Argentina where the practice was otherwise banned in 1921.

The Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua have outright bans with no exceptions.

“It is clear that there are many women who do not feel constrained by the foreseen penalties against abortion and who seek them out to end their pregnancies,” Fernández said.

Criminalising abortion “has condemned many women, generally poorer women, to seek out abortions in totally clandestine situations, putting their health and sometimes their very lives at risk”.

Mariela Belski, the director of Amnesty International in Argentina, welcomed the announcement. “It is clear that the president heard the demands of women, adolescents and girls, and that he has the conviction that Argentina is ready for this bill,” she said.


Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

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 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 on brink of historic vote to legalise abortion
Senate debates bill that would make it first major Latin American country to allow terminations

Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent and Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires

28, Dec, 2020 @5:45 PM

Article image
Latin American feminists vow to protect abortion rights at home after shock US ruling
Women’s movements have fought hard to reverse anti-abortion laws in their countries and say it’s not the end for the US

Natalie Alcoba in Buenos Aires

05, May, 2022 @10:01 AM

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

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
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
Texas anti-abortion law shows ‘terrifying’ fragility of women’s rights, say activists
Campaigners fear ban emboldens anti-choice governments as more aggressive opposition, better organised and funded, spreads from US

Lizzy Davies

18, Sep, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
'Women in Argentina live in hell': calls for legal abortion grow | Uki Goñi
A groundswell of support for Argentinian women to be allowed terminations in the early weeks of pregnancy could soon culminate in a change to the law

Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires

14, Mar, 2018 @12:12 PM

Article image
Family planning schemes must offer options other than abortion, says US
Campaigners issue global call to action on reproductive rights as US adviser’s comments embolden anti-choice groups

Samuel Okiror in Nairobi and Liz Ford

14, Nov, 2019 @1:18 PM