Argentina: Abortion. Challenges since the law´s aproval

By Jeanette Cisneros

Despite its limitations, the law is a historic victory. Not of the government, but of our green tide. Now, as the example of San Juan shows, the struggle continues for the law to be enforced. Organize with us to fight for more.

Act 27,610 is a historical achievement. Decades of struggle, two years of permanent mobilization, debates that crossed the entire society and an echo that crosses borders. Massive and combative, our battle is part of the fourth international feminist wave, which lives on despite the pandemic.

The government tried to politically appropriate our victory, seeking to channel the sympathy for the approval to the president, his cabinet and his deputies and senators. In addition, he used it to cover the fact that while our law was voted by the lower house, the Senate was approving a cut in pensions and vice versa.

We won and they lost, starting with Pope Bergoglio, his Catholic Church and his evangelical allies. Neither their “pro-life” escraches, nor their offensive posters nor their parliamentary lobby managed to stop us. Neither could the anti-choice legislators, including Mayans, the head of the ruling bloc in the Senate. We defeated them.

But Alberto yielded to the anti-rights sectors and imposed successive cuts to the law. Unlike the Campaign´s project, he first maintained a penalty after week 14 and included conscientious objection. Then he raised it to institutional objection as a concession to private clinics and social health care providers. And finally, when promulgating the law, he vetoed the comprehensive character of the definition of health, which hinders non-punishable abortions.

Beyond those limitations, our advancement and the defeat of the anti-choice sector strengthen us for the struggles to come.

Green tide and struggles in other countries

A prime example of the scope of our achievement is South Korea. In 2019, after the first half-sanction here, the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional the law that prohibits abortion since 1953. And last October, a law was approved to guarantee abortions until week 14, a right that took effect from January 1.

Another much closer country where the fight continues is Chile. Our comrades of the Anti-Capitalist Movement point out: “After women won the legalization of abortion in the streets, today a bill that was introduced in 2018 is being discussed in the Chamber of Deputies that would decriminalize abortion for any cause up to 14 weeks of gestation. This project does not guarantee access to a safe and free abortion in the public health care system, it is only a modification to the Penal Code that eliminates the punishment for women, who will continue to abort clandestinely without guarantees or rights … It is not enough to decriminalize: it must be the State that guarantees access to contraceptives; sexual education in respect, consent and pleasure, rights; the end of obstetric violence and quality health that protects those who do want to be mothers. In short, all sexual and reproductive rights for all women. We continue in the fight for a free, safe and legal abortion.”

These are only two samples of a permanent tug-of-war, because although the feminist wave persists – albeit attenuated by the pandemic – everywhere, anti-rights politicians and religious groups are organized to impede progress or force retreats where abortion is already legal. For example, in Honduras the unicameral Congress has just “sealed” article 67 of its Constitution, which prohibits abortion in all circumstances.

Enforcement: another battle

From law to reality there is always a distance. It happens with Act 26,150 on Comprehensive Sexual Education and with the national protocol for the application of the ILE (non-penalized abortions), among many other norms that recognize rights. Based on this experience, we warned that institutional conscientious objection would open the door to new refusals.

And it did not take long to happen. The first case arose in San Juan: the Rawson Hospital guarantees abortions, but the other public hospital in the capital, Marcial Quiroga, does not: according to its director, there is institutional conscientious objection. This objection is illegal, because article 11 of the law only authorizes it for private clinics and social health care providers. We mobilized immediately, both in San Juan and to the office of that province in Buenos Aires to demand that the law be complied with. On Monday 18, the Network of Health Professionals for the Right to Decide held a first meeting with feminist groups, in which we participated. We agreed to make a broad request to demand a meeting with the Minister of Health. In the middle, the anti-choice director of Quiroga Hospital had to resign. But another objector took her place. That is why we continue to demand that personnel be hired to guarantee the right to abortion, as established by law. In turn, the anti-rights Lawyers for Life and Blue Wave continue to press against it. That is to say, the fight is still open.

According to reports, in addition to San Juan there are problems with the implementation of the law in provinces such as Corrientes, Formosa, Chaco, Tucumán and Santa Cruz. Others, such as Santa Fe, Catamarca and Córdoba, stall while waiting for the national application guide.

Specifically, we must be vigilant that every hospital or public health establishment has personnel to perform abortions. And that all social health care providers and private clinics where there is institutional objection guarantee  referral without delay and cover the total cost of the practice.

On the other hand, the State must guarantee in a timely manner the sufficient supply of Misoprostol and Mifepristone. That is why it is essential to advance in public production in Santa Fe and the other state laboratories, which would also greatly lower costs.

Organize with Juntas and the MST

When promulgating the law, Alberto said he was “happy to be putting an end to patriarchy.” For starters, the statement istself is already a sexist boast. But let’s get to the main thing: patriarchy and capitalism are part of the same system that subjects women and LGBTI+ people to oppression and the entire working class to exploitation, all for the benefit of a privileged minority.

Each institution of this capitalist and patriarchal State upholds this unjust order, often with violence, and the more crises there are, the more we hold back our access to conquered rights. The family, the government, the police, the justice system, the school, the churches, the health system and the mass media produce and reproduce this status quo. That is why decisions are made by the dinosaurs in the Senate that limited our law. That is why the State finances the Catholic Church so that the dogmas of the Vatican outweigh the ESI (Comprehensive Sex Education) and promote “social peace”. That is why the president erases with his elbow years of historic struggles to present his own project, negotiate with the anti-rights sectors and wants to claim our triumphs.

We invite you to come to the open assemblies that we are organizing as democratic spaces to build a revolutionary feminism. We want to debate and resolve together and gather together what battles we are going to fight, why and how. We want to start preparing the marches and the International Women’s Strike of March 8. Organizing is the only way to defeat the anti-rights sectors, turn everything around and make way for socialism.