Buenos Aires Times

argentina THEMES OF THE YEAR

Abortion vote fails, but debate ignites a nation

In a year when women’s rights and gender violence once again took centre stage in Argentina, perhaps no other subject divided the nation more than the bill to legalise elective abortion that arrived in Congress this year.

Saturday 29 December, 2018
Hundreds of thousands of green pro-choice activists burst into cheers and tears on the streets outside Congress.
Hundreds of thousands of green pro-choice activists burst into cheers and tears on the streets outside Congress. Foto:AFP

The landmark piece of legislation – Argentina currently allows abortion only in cases of rape or risks to a woman’s health – motivated both sides, prompting demonstrations, huge crowds and the ubiquitous sight of green (pro) and blue (against) headscarves being affixed to people’s clothes, bags and bodies throughout the year. Politicians were forced to declare their allegiances too, giving voters a rare glimpse of lawmakers’ true colours.

The debate, which ran for months on TV screens, in newspapers, online and around the nation’s dining tables, reached a turning point on June 14, when lawmakers in the lower house Chamber of Deputies – after a marathon 22-hour session – passed the bill with a thin margin of just four votes. Hundreds of thousands of green pro-choice activists burst into cheers and tears on the streets outside Congress.

A second showdown came in August, when the legislation finally reached the Senate. The upper house was considered a tougher ask and so it proved, with a 15-hour debate closing with victory for the pro-life camp, despite public opinion polls showing popular support for reform at around 60 percent.

However, this battle is far from over. On Boxing Day (December 26), Cambiemos lawmaker Daniel Lipovetzky said that a bill to legalise the voluntary interruption of pregnancy would be presented in Congress again, most likely in this coming March.

He suggested it would gather the necessary signatures of support but said it would likely feature changes to 2018’s version of the bill. Lipovetzky even went so far as to propose a date for its inclusion, March 8 – also known as International Women’s Day.

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