Argentina considers legalizing abortion

In mid-April, a crowd of Argentinean men and women standing outside the nation’s Congress cheered after lawmakers began considering legislation on an issue that polarizes Argentina: legalizing abortion (The New York Times).

In Argentina, abortion is illegal except in cases of rape or if the pregnancy threatens the woman’s physical or mental health. The proposed legislation would allow women to have an abortion in the first 14 weeks of their pregnancy.

If abortion were legalized, the birthplace of Pope Francis, with almost 44 million citizens, would become the most populous country in Latin America to permit women to terminate pregnancies.

“We’re empowering ourselves and demanding our rights. We can’t let people keep telling us what we can and cannot do with our own bodies,” said 19-year old medical student Lucía Bulat, standing on the steps of the Congreso (The New York Times).

Debate divides rural and urban populations

In Buenos Aires, 67 percent of the population supports legalization of abortion (The New York Times). The last 13 years have seen six legalization bills presented to Congress, with little success.

In rural areas of the country, the majority is generally against legalizing abortion.

“There is a very clear correlation: More modern, urban areas are more likely to approve of legalization,” said Lucas Romero of the local Synopsis consultancy group (The New York Times).

Grassroots pressure stemming from a broader national women’s rights movement that started in 2015 in response to female killings prompted an unexpected coalition of female lawmakers from several political parties to back the most recent bill.

The feminist movement Ni Una Menos (“Not one [woman] less”) has prompted hundreds of thousands of women and men to take to the streets to raise awareness about domestic violence and demand stronger legislation to protect women.

“The Ni Una Menos movement led to a surge of adherence to the feminist movement and a generalized demand for more equal rights,” said Dora Barrancos, 77, a sociologist at a government agency. (The New York Times)

National attitudes toward legalized abortion are split roughly down the middle, although there has been a steady increase in support for legalization over the past decade.

Experts and witnesses have started appearing before a special commission that will meet twice a week over the next two months to consider the bill, which is expected to be put forward for a vote in June.

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