On the 1st of November, Members of the Chamber of Deputies of Argentina's Congress held an historic debate (video), discussing the decriminalisation of abortion.
There was a vote held which was won in favour of the bill, but it was later ratified invalid for the low turnout. A further meeting was to be held the following week, but the president blocked it from going ahead.
The church and the state are collaborating against the hundreds of women who are dying every day in Argentina from a lack of integrative sexual education, free contraception and legal abortion.
It is estimated one woman dies daily in Argentina because of unsafe, backstreet abortions.
In Argentina, there are an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 illegal abortions each year. For every 100,000 live births there are 44 deaths - more than twice as high as in neighbouring Chile and Uruguay. A recent study by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, also found that over the past 15 years complications from abortion were the main cause of maternal deaths in Argentina.
Argentine law makes thousands of women criminals every day. *
The Humans Right's Watch's 2010 report on abortion in Argentina was scathing. Advocacy Director from Human Right’s Watch, Marianne Mollmann said “The criminalisation of abortion is incompatible with human rights,” she stated. Current abortion laws in Argentina “not only bring serious consequences to the health and life of a woman who needs to terminate her pregnancy, but also creates a public health problem,” she continued. “Unsafe illegal practices are the leading cause of maternal mortality in Argentina.”
While significant advances have been made, Argentina has a long way to go to reach its UN millennium target of reducing its maternal mortality ratio by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015.
To have any significant effect on maternal death levels, the government must reform its contraceptive and sexual health services. The legalisation of abortion is at the very heart of this debate.
Some well-off women can afford an Illegal abortion in relative safety and clinical settings, but the majority of the population who live in poverty cannot. In Argentina, an illegal abortion can cost anything from $3000 pesos (£452) to $10,000 pesos (£1,507), for an operation. A minimum wage is $1800 a month, and welfare is $500 a month. In other words, illegal abortions in clinical settings are inaccessible for poor women.
Additionally, sex education is rare, and contraceptives are not easily freely available, which adds to the burden on poor women.
We demand: sex education to be free to decide; free contraceptives to avoid having to abort; and safe, legal and free abortion to be free from a premature death.
* Article 86 of the Penal Code defines abortion as a crime, and women can be imprisoned if caught. There are two exceptions, cases in which abortion is ‘not punishable’, if the mother's life is at risk or in the case of rape if the woman is underage or deemed "of feeble mind". However, every case must come before a tribunal, and decisions can take months.