At 9:51 a.m. Thursday, after more than 22 hours of debate, the screens displayed the results of the vote on the legalization of abortion in the lower house: 129 “Yes” against 125 “No.” Outside the Congress building, the sea of people dressed in green (representing hope), made up of mostly young people and teenagers, who had held an all-night vigil despite the punishing temperatures, erupted in celebration.
The result was highly uncertain until the very end, while feverish negotiations were playing out in the corridors of Congress. However, it would have been enough to take a look at what was happening in the Plaza del Congresso to see where the sympathies of the people truly lay: the square had been divided into two equal sectors, but the green of the pro-choice protesters, and especially of the women—whether young, very young or not so young—supporting the law legalizing the voluntary interruption of pregnancies, had poured out like a wave over the whole neighborhood, drowning out almost completely the anti-abortion side.
The latter, however, could count on the Catholic Church to conduct an aggressive campaign, certainly much more vigorous in its defense of “life from the moment of conception” than in defending the victims of the military dictatorship and those of the savage neoliberal policies of the Macri government.
While they wait for the vote in the Senate, where the battle unfortunately appears almost hopeless, since the majority is against legalization, the Ni una menos movement can at least celebrate this victory. They have always been committed to the defense of three closely intertwined demands: “Sex education to be able to decide. Contraceptives to not have to abort. Legal abortion to not have to die.”
And there have been so many women who have died in Argentina, where abortion is punished with a sentence of up to four years in prison and has only been allowed so far in cases of rape or a threat to the woman’s health, and even then only at the end of a process. Argentina is a country where complications due to clandestine abortions—about 500,000 annually, according to a report by Human Rights Watch— are the leading cause of death for pregnant women. This applies in particular for those who are pregnant and poor, since those who can afford it still have the possibility to turn to private doctors to get a surgical abortion.
Precisely in order to rectify this situation, 71 deputies of very diverse political orientations have signed on as co-authors on the draft law for reform, which would provide the legal right to free and safe abortion up to the 14th week (and beyond, in the case of rape, of a danger to the life of the woman and of serious fetal malformations). President Mauricio Macri has said he opposes the law; however, he also said that he would not veto the law if it passed.