Buenos Aires Times

argentina ABORTION REFORM VOTE

PRO senator predicts abortion reform will fail as Senate vote nears

Marches and tears as abortion law vote approaches – latest signs point to a defeat for the green camp.

Monday 6 August, 2018
Activists in favour of the legalisation of abortion, dressed as characters from Canadian author Margaret Atwood's feminist dystopian novel 'The Handmaid's Tale,' display green headscarves as they perform at the Parque de la Memoria in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
Activists in favour of the legalisation of abortion, dressed as characters from Canadian author Margaret Atwood's feminist dystopian novel 'The Handmaid's Tale,' display green headscarves as they perform at the Parque de la Memoria in Buenos Aires on Sunday. Foto:AFP-ALEJANDRO PAGNI

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Ernesto Martínez, a PRO party senator who supports abortion reform bill currently before Congress, has predicted the Senate will reject the legislation in Wednesday's crucial upcoming vote, declaring he is sure that "the negative position will triumph."

The lawmaker from Córdoba province told Radio LED that the blue camp had already got "enough votes" to win a majority.

"I think the numbers are already clear. The negative position will triumph ... [it] will be rejected," he said

However, the Cambiemos (Let's Change) lawmaker said people should not "dramatise" the outcome of Wednesday's vote, predicting "new opportunities are coming" in the battle for free, legal and safe abortion in Argentina. He said the existence of the bill in Congress was representative of a "breakthrough" in attitudes toward the termination of pregnancies in the country.

"Others they have felt the pressure of the Church from a political point of view and [they] have made an electoral calculation," he said. 

Approved by Congress' lower house on June 14, the bill before the Senate would legalise abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and provide for conscientious objection for practitioners, but not for hospitals.  In the August 8 vote, senators will have to decide on the version of the text adopted by the deputies.

The vote was expected to be tight, with a majority of the 72 senators needed to approve the text, if abortion is to be legalised. However, in the last few days two senators have said they will cast ballots against the bill, tipping the balance in favour of the blue, pro-life camp.

Over the weekend, FpV-PJ Senator Silvina García Larraburu (Río Nego) said she would vote against, U-turning on a previous declaration made with the other lawmakers in her bloc. She said the last week of campaigning had pushed her toward rejecting the bill.

That bombshell came just days after PJ Senator Juan Carlos Romero (Salta) confirmed he too would vote against the legislation, saying he would respect the "majority" view of the province he represents.

The two declarations mean that 37 senators have publicly come out saying they will reject the bill in its current form.

Demonstrations

With the vote creeping closer by the day, thousands of pro-choice campaigners held various demonstrations on Sunday, banging pots and marching in a bid to persuade lawmakers to approve the legislation.

In one of the most eye-catching protests, 32 women in Buenos Aires once again donned the white bonnets and red cloaks worn by women forced into childbearing servitude on the television drama The Handmaid's Tale, based on Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel.

Gathering at the Parque de la Memoria on the Río de la Plata, they also raised their green handkerchiefs, a symbol of the struggle for legal abortion. 

"Doing this helps us express what is not being heard – which is that abortions happen. And we need them to be done in a safe place, open to the community, to all women," Bernardina Rossini, one of the marchers, told the AFP news agency. 

The women embraced, and several wept openly. Most were between 30 and 60 years old, and between them, a girl walked with her mother. 

"It's a way of saying this: it's our body, and we want to decide on what happens ourselves," Rossini stressed. 

Elsewhere in the capital, dozens of women gathered outside Congress, while others marched through the streets banging pots. 

"We were a million [when it was discussed in the Chamber of Deputies], let's be two million," chanted demonstrators, calling on the country's pro-choice supporters to gather on Wednesday in front of the Congress building as the Senate votes on the bill. 

In Argentina, abortion is currently decriminalised in case of pregnancies that are a result of rape or when the health of women is endangered. According to NGOs,  about 500,000 clandestine abortions are practiced every year and around a hundred women die from unsafe procedures.

Evangelical groups rally

On the opposing side of the debate, thousands of evangelical churchgoers held a counter-demonstration on Saturday to reject the abortion bill. Gathering under the blue pro-life camp's slogan of "Save the two lives," demonstrators rallied in the centre of Buenos Aires. 

"Abortion is a criminal practice and not a health policy," the organisers said.

"I doubt that the law will be approved because it is an outrage to our Constitution, and I know that the senators will not allow it. Argentina is pro-life," said demonstrator Josefina Blanco, clad in her blue handkerchief.

"We want a country where abortion is not given as an option," said Sebastián Staropoli, another protester, told AFP.

With her little girl in her arms, demonstrator Lucía Cabusari warned that if the law is approved by lawmakers and becomes law, "the State will be endorsing a crime."

- TIMES/AFP

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