Health Secretary Adolfo
his “indeclinable” resignation from the government
yesterday, ending a week in
which the debate over abortion
in Argentina again seized national headlines.
Rubinstein’s position had
looked untenable ever since it
emerged Thursday that he had
not sought permission from
his superiors before issuing, a
day earlier, a new protocol that
updated the guidelines for
non-punishable abortions in
Argentina, a hot-topic issue
that fiercely divdes the majority Catholic nation.
On Friday morning, President Mauricio Macri revoked
the new rules. Addressing the
decision in a live video on Instagram, the president described Rubinstein’s decision
as “unilateral” and “wrong.”
He did not refer to the abortion guidelines specifically,
only the way in which they
“We are a team, from the first
day I bet on working as a team,
to debate, to discuss. The publication of the legal interruption
of pregnancy protocol was a
unilateral decision and that is
wrong, so – without discussing
the substance of the matter – we
annul by decree what has been
done,” said Macri.
Rumours had started to circulate on Thursday that Rubinstein, a member of the UCRRadical wing of the outgoing
government coalition, was on
his way out.
The health secretary said in
his resignation letter, sent to the
president yesterday, that he had
sought to “improve public
health and bring health services closer to people. “
“I am convinced that despite
many personal and contextual
limitations … I [have] tried to
do my best to improve public
health,” he wrote.
He criticised the decision to
revoke the protocol, saying it
was a crucial “action guide for
doctors and health teams that
gives them certainty and protection in the performance of
the procedures they must perform to guarantee the rights
that are enshrined in our criminal code.”
“The repeal of the protocol …
obliges me to resign indefinitely
from my position,” he wrote.
“During my management I have had as one of my top priorities both the protection and the
extension of the rights of women, girls, adolescents, people
with the ability to gestate and
the LGBTIQ + community.”
The row began Wednesday,
just hours after the publication
of new guidelines for non-punishable abortionsin the Official Gazette. News of the new
protocol sparked immediate
controversy, within and beyond
the ruling coalition.
The resolution, which detailed “Protocol for the comprehensive care of people entitled
to legal termination of pregnancy” (ILE), was signed by
Rubinstein, who enjoyed ministerial rank until Macri
streamlined his Cabinet 14
These new rules recognised the right of adolescents
(in this case those aged under 16) to decide on the interruption of their pregnancies
in cases falling within the
law in accordance with World
Health Organisation (WHO)
It indicates that girls aged
between 13 and 16 years old do
not need authorisation from
their parents or guardians to
seek the procedure, unless it
involves a high level of risk.
Those under 13 do need permission from their parents or guardians. Should the legally responsible adults refuse to grant
permission, healthcare professionals do have the right to step
in, but only the grounds of principles related to the health of the
pregnant girl, and not for ideological or religious reasons.
Current Argentine legislation authorises an abortion only
when the woman’s life is in danger or when the pregnancy is
the result of rape.
Rubinstein, a militant activist
in favour of legalisation who
lobbied hard for the abortion
reform bill that was ultimately
frustrated in the Senate last
year, described the new proposal as “a great step forward to
continue advancing towards
the consolidation of rights and
Saturday, November 23, 2019
the protection of public health
But his initiative triggered a
crisis within the outgoing Cambiemos coalition entering its
last three weeks in office.
“The Health Secretary’s resolution seems to me deplorable
and clearly unconstitutional,
irresponsibly expanding the
justification for non-indictable
abortion and limiting the conscientious objectors within the
medical profession,” complained outgoing Senator Federico
Pinedo (who heads the upper
house under the vice-president), a member of Macri’s PRO
The protocol did not meet win
the approval of Rubinstein’s superior, Social Development Minister Carolina Stanley, either,
who complained that she had
not been consulted – one of the
justifications given by the government for nixing it.
Rumours soon circulated
that Rubinstein’s resignation
had been requested. Radicals
within the ruling coalition
promptly stated their solidarity with their party colleague
with a signed resolution.
The Kirchnerite opposition
was quick to criticise the contradictions within the government ,with former health minister Ginés González García and
Pablo Yedlin (tipped for the
portfolio in the incoming government) at the forefront.
The latter rebutted Pinedo’s
saying that Rubinstein was not
trying to legislate anything
from the Executive branch since the causes permitting a legal
abortion had been in the Criminal Code for over 100 years.
Yedlin also sharply criticised
Stanley’s qualifications to decide over public health.
Despite clearing the way for
last year’s abortion bill to be
presented in Congress, Macri
adopted a pro-life stance during
the election campaign. In contrast, president-elect Alberto
Fernández recently announced
that he would push the legalisation of abortion “as soon as” he
takes office next month, regarding the question as a public
Poignant cases of child pregnancies constantly bring the
issue to the fore –in the midst of
the latest political controversy,
in Jujuy, José Dávalos, 60, was
sentenced on Wednesday to 13
years in prison for raping a girl
of 12, a crime resulting in a birth by caesarean section with the
baby dying four days later.
It is estimated that there are
around half a million abortions
in Argentina every year with
100 or more women dying as a
result of illegal procedures.