The right of women to dispose of their bodies according to their will is not (yet) a reality in many countries of the world, often not even in ours.
Yet, there is good news and it comes from Argentina, where on December 30, 2020 the Senate approved, with a large margin of votes in favor (38 in favor, 29 against and one abstention), the law on voluntary interruption of pregnancy. , making abortion legal in the country upon simple request of the pregnant woman.
After the failed attempt in 2018 under the government of Mauricio Macrì, which ended with 38 votes against, the law dating back to 1921 is finally overcome, despite the strong disappointment of the Catholic Church, and free and legal abortion is guaranteed for all women who want to use it, given the existence of certain conditions.
The right to abortion in Argentina: before and after the 2020 law
Before this historic decision, Argentine women could only resort to abortion if there was a concrete and serious danger to their health in carrying the pregnancy to term, or if the latter was the result of violence.
The data collected so far indicated that due to previous political and legislative choices, 38,000 women were hospitalized every year in the country for serious complications resulting from clandestine abortions, which were between 400 and 500,000 per year.Now, however, the pregnant woman will be able to resort to termination of pregnancy as long as it is within the fourteenth week of conception. After this deadline, abortion will be possible only in case of danger to the mother's life or if the fetus is the result of rape.
Girls aged 16 and older are also considered capable of requesting this measure, while in the case of infra-fourteen the operation can be carried out with the consent of at least one of the minor's parents unless abortion could compromise the life or health of the girl.
The provision that binds the structure is important, to which the request is made to proceed with the procedure no later than ten days from the receipt of the application, whether it is a public health structure or a private one.
Furthermore, Article 11 of the aforementioned law requires healthcare personnel to provide dignified treatment as well as guarantee the privacy of their patients, respecting their wishes.
Any public official or health worker who refuses, obstructs or delays the performance will be punished according to criminal law and will be prevented from exercising his profession.
Increasingly, the bill that has now found approval provides for the implementation of state resources used in sex education aimed at young people, thus taking a step towards more free and aware decisions of women about their own bodies as well as further empowerment of the men in this area.
The legalization of abortion: the expression of what rights?
The Argentine National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism immediately expressed its support for the project concerning the law regulating access to voluntary termination of pregnancy.
The body, indeed, which fights for the enhancement of diversity and for equal opportunities in order to guarantee the full exercise of fundamental rights, has emphasized five main aspects of the bill which has now become for all binding law effects and which translate into an implementation of the fundamental rights of the person.
First of all, making recourse to abortion legal and free implies equal access to the health system at all levels, eliminating discrimination resulting from the different economic resources of those involved and their social background.
The choice to continue a pregnancy or not is then an exercise of freedom, a freedom that a country must recognize, respecting the meaning that the person who makes the decision confers on the abortion itself, without prejudice or obstacles.
Open and free access to abortion is also part of the sexual and reproductive rights of women and is the exercise of the right of autonomy of the latter over their own bodies.
Restrictions based on moral and religious criteria deny in themselves the religious, cultural, visions and beliefs that exist within the country, which instead are recognized and strengthened by the new legislation that came into force, making Argentina a country more open to minorities.
Furthermore, the project as it was conceived and subsequently approved is compliant with the provisions of international agreements on human rights, guaranteeing the right to life, health and privacy.
Finally, the legislative text is characterized by a highly inclusive terminology of gender identities. For example, already in Article 1 the legislation speaks of "all women or other identities with gestation skills", giving a strong example of breaking the classic terminological barriers in the field of gender.
The right to abortion in Latin America: a brief overview
With its decision Argentina has certainly brought about a change of direction in the panorama of the right to health of women in Latin America.
Indeed, it is recorded that today about three quarters of abortions performed in the subcontinent are unsafe.
This condition certainly derives from the inability of the majority of women in this area to legally access termination of pregnancy.
The Center for Reproductive Rights reports how Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Paraguay and Chile provide access to abortion only where gestation constitutes a danger to the safety of women, as well as 34 other countries in the world.
On the other hand, the situation is worse for women in Honduras, El Salvador, Suriname, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where abortion is always prohibited and penalized, even where their life is at risk due to pregnancy.
About 90 million women around the world are subject to this strict legislation. Slightly milder are the legislative provisions of Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia which allow for the termination of pregnancy not only in the event of life threatening but also in general for the health of the pregnant woman.
Argentina therefore joins the more virtuous Latin American countries such as Guyana, French Guiana, Uruguay, Cuba and Puerto Rico which, albeit in a minority, legally allow the termination of pregnancy to those who request it as long as it is within certain time limits identified by the individual legislations.
Therefore, if we want to draw conclusions, it is undeniable that the legislative choice taken at the end of 2020 will lead to an improvement in the conditions of Argentine women, but for this to be effective we will have to wait some more time, verifying that access to abortion does not find an obstacle in refusal of conscientious objectors to proceed with the termination of pregnancy, as experienced by Italy in recent years (we had talked about it here), effectively making the new law a mere empty container.
Translated by Veronica Giustiniani