In Argentina, since 1921, abortion is only legal when the health or life of the woman is in danger, or when the pregnancy results from rape. Although efforts to guarantee access to legal abortion under these three grounds were implemented in the last decade, estimates show that between 370,000 and 520,000 clandestine abortions are performed annually in Argentina. Unsafe illegal abortion has been the leading cause of maternal morality for the past 30 years, amounting to an annual average of 47 maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion.
This year, after six failed attempts to make the Congress debate a bill to decriminalize and legalize abortion on request until the 14th week of gestation, a bill is finally being debated. During April and May 2018, public hearings are being held, where speakers in favour and against the bill present their viewpoints before legislators. After that, the bill will be formally debated in Congress. Hopefully, by the end of the year, Argentina will join the group of countries that respect reproductive and sexual rights.
In her Opinion piece entitled “Aborto legal, oportunidad histórica,” Mercedes Cavallo cogently argues that the parliamentary debate should not hinge on personal opinions about the morality of the practice. Instead the Argentine Congress should focus on whether abortion should remain criminalized or not. Given the practical absurdity of prosecuting 370,000 to 520,000 women and their helpers as criminals every year, and the State’s longstanding commitments to non-discrimination and gender equality under international law, she argues that Argentina should decriminalize abortion under 14 weeks’ gestation to honor the republican principle of equality.