Argentina passes abortion bill despite resistance from evangelicals, Catholics

People demonstrate against abortion in Buenos Aires, on December 28, 2020 as Argentina's Senate prepares to vote on a bill that would legalize the practice. - The bill, which aims to legalize voluntary abortions at up to 14 weeks, was passed by the Chamber of Deputies on December 11 and will be debated and voted on in the Senate on Tuesday. | AFP via Getty Images/Emiliano Lasalvia

Despite fervent opposition from the nation's evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics, the national government of Argentina voted to allow elective abortion before 14 weeks gestation. 

In an early morning Wednesday vote, the Senate in the South American country voted 38-29 to pass a measure previously approved by the Chamber of Deputies, according to the BBC

Reacting to its passage on Twitter, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez wrote: "Safe, legal, and free abortion is law." 

"Today we are a better society that expands rights to women and guarantees public health," he added.

Fernandez has promised to sign the legislation. 

The vote comes after an unsuccessful attempt to legalize abortion in 2018 when the Senate rejected a similar measure.
Until now, abortion was only available in Argentina in the event of a rape or if the mother's life was in jeopardy as a result of the pregnancy. 

Supporters of the bill are hailing it as a positive human rights development, especially that it happened in Latin America — long considered a culturally conservative country where the Roman Catholic Church and a growing evangelical Christian population has considerable sway over society — and that it portends a future trend in the region. 

According to France24 Sunday, though Catholicism remains a force in Argentina, evangelicals have emerged to the front lines in the fight against abortion legalization since 2018. 

Sociologist Fortunato Mallimaci told the outlet that evangelical Christians "have the momentum of the reborn." 

During recent street protests in Buenos Aires, evangelicals waved blue handkerchiefs in contrast to the green ones abortion rights supporters waved.

Argentina is the home of Pope Francis, who had previously likened abortion to hiring an assassin but who stayed quiet in the current debate though he tweeted, hours before the Senate debate began Tuesday, that "the Son of God was born an outcast, in order to tell us that every outcast is a child of God. He came into the world as each child comes into the world, weak and vulnerable, so that we can learn to accept our weaknesses with tender love.” 

After the vote, the group Pro-Life Unity said the date of the bill's passage would be remembered “as one of the most macabre days in recent history.” Similarly, the Roman Catholic bishops' conference in Buenos Aires said in a statement that the legislation "will deepen even further the divisions in our country" and lamented that the nation's leadership was distant from how most of the nation feels about abortion. 

The Argentine bill permits private medical institutions and health professionals to opt out of performing an abortion procedure but they will have to refer the woman to another medical center.

The vice president of Argentina, Kristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who served as president from 2007 to 2015, presided over the vote and said she was persuaded to change her mind about abortion, having opposed its legalization as president. 

The push to legalize the practice was helped along by the "piba" revolution in recent years; piba is Argentine slang for "girls." Opinion polling throughout the nation also showed opposition to abortion had decreased. 


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