Friday, June 15, 2018

Argentine Senate rejects legalization of abortion two months after narrow majority in Chamber of Deputies votes in favour

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: Deuteronomy 30:19

Argentina threatens to head in the same self-destructive direction as that recently favoured by Ireland. As reported by BBC News, June 14, 2018 (bold, links in original):

Catholic Argentina's lower house has backed a bill legalising abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

After a divisive debate lasting more than 22 hours, 129 members of the Chamber of Deputies voted in favour and 125 against while one abstained.

The bill will now have to go to the Senate.

President Mauricio Macri is strongly opposed to the bill but has said that he would not veto it if it was passed by both houses.

Last-minute turnaround
Abortion is currently illegal in Argentina, except in cases of rape or when the life or health of the woman is at risk. Women seeking abortions also have to apply to a judge for permission, which critics say can unnecessarily delay the procedure.

Up until three hours before the vote, those against the bill seemed to be in the majority until a lawmaker in the province of La Pampa, Sergio Ziliotto, announced on Twitter that he and two colleagues had changed their minds and would vote "yes".

Junto a Melina Delú y Ariel Rauschenberger, los 3 diputados nacionales peronistas por La Pampa votaremos a FAVOR de la despenalización del aborto.

— Sergio Ziliotto (@ZiliottoSergio) June 14, 2018

The announcement invigorated pro-choice lawmakers at a time when despondency was beginning to set in after the night-long debate.

Supporters of the bill, many of whom had spent the entire night demonstrating outside of the Congress building in Buenos Aires, cheered and hugged when the result of the vote was announced.

Many also took to social media to celebrate with #AbortoSeraLey (#AbortionWillBeLaw), a hashtag that is trending on Twitter in Argentina.

Among those celebrating the vote as a "historic step" was the secretary general of human rights group Amnesty International, Salil Shetty.

Historic step forward for women's rights in #Argentina today! It's not over yet, but the vote to decriminalise abortion up to 14 weeks sends a powerful message which will reverberate across the whole region #AbortoSeraLey https://t.co/cwBM19SWGn pic.twitter.com/VFKoUubykF

— Salil Shetty (@SalilShetty) June 14, 2018

There was high drama even as the result came in. The electronic board inside the chamber initially showed 131 in favour and 123 against but two lawmakers immediately shouted that their vote had not been recorded accurately.

The speaker then proceeded to ask a number of deputies to confirm how they had voted and after some tense minutes confirmed that the bill had been passed.

'Innocent blood'
The bill will now go to the Senate, where it is expected to be put to a vote in September.

Analysts say it faces an uphill battle in the upper chamber, where a number of senators have already expressed their opposition.

Women's rights activists said they would continue to campaign vigorously for the bill to be passed.

They argue that legalising abortions is a public health issue, with many women currently taking huge risks with their health and sometimes even their lives when they resort to illegal terminations.

Some of the lawmakers taking part in the debate said they had been swayed by the argument. They said that while they personally remained opposed to abortions, they saw the need for women to have access to safe, legal terminations.

But many others did not change their minds. Horacio Goicoechea of the Radical Civic Union made an impassioned plea for his colleagues to vote "no", saying: "We're building a law on innocent blood."
See my post Irish referendum results in removal of right to life of unborn from the constitution (May 26, 2018)
August 10, 2018 update: Good news, as reported by Scott Squires of Reuters, August 9, 2018:

BUENOS AIRES - Argentine senators rejected a bill to legalize abortion after an impassioned debate ran into the early hours of Thursday, pushing back against a groundswell of support from a surging abortion rights movement.

The Senate voted 38 to 31 against the proposed measure, which would have legalized a woman’s right to seek an abortion into the 14th week of pregnancy. The bill had narrowly passed in the lower house in July.

Families and clergy in baby-blue bandanas gathered outside the congressional palace as the result came in just before 3 a.m., waving Argentine flags in support of the Catholic Church’s anti-abortion stance in Pope Francis’ home country.

“What this vote showed is that Argentina is still a country that represents family values,” anti-abortion activist Victoria Osuna, 32, told Reuters.

Current Argentine law only permits abortions in cases of rape, or if the mother’s health is at risk.

Abortion rights supporters, clad in green bandanas that have become a symbol of the movement, danced to drum lines and swarmed the city’s streets to the end, despite a biting wind and cold rain.

Many had camped in front of Argentina’s National Congress since Wednesday night.

“I’m still optimistic. It didn’t pass today, but it will pass tomorrow, it will pass the next day,” said abortion rights supporter Natalia Carol, 23. “This is not over.”

Uruguay and Cuba are the only Latin American countries that now have broadly legalized abortion.

In Brazil, the Supreme Court is set to consider whether current law, which allows terminating pregnancies only in cases of rape, fetal deformation or when the mother’s life is in danger, is unconstitutional.

But passing a pro-abortion law will face hurdles in Brazil’s increasingly conservative Congress, with a growing Evangelical Christian caucus that is staunchly opposed.

Women’s rights advocates, however, hope that a more liberal judiciary in Brazil will at least decriminalize abortion to help avoid deaths from botched terminations in a country where hundreds of thousands of women resort to clandestine clinics each year.

Ahead of the Senate vote in Argentina, President Mauricio Macri called the debate “a win for democracy.” Macri said he was personally against abortion, but would sign the bill if it passed.

Argentina’s abortion rights movement, backed by feminist groups galvanized in recent years to stop violence against women, argued that the bill would end unregulated abortions that government data show as the leading cause of maternal deaths.

There are at least 350,000 illegal abortions in Argentina every year, the Ministry of Health estimates, though international human rights groups say the number may be higher.

The move to legalize abortion in Argentina is a “public health and human rights imperative,” said New York-based Human Rights Watch.

“Just because the bill got shot down, it will not stop the movement,” said Paula Avila-Guillen, a director of Women’s Equality Center, an abortion rights advocacy group. “We will be there at the next legislative opportunity.”

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