Monday, July 22, 2024

ARGENTINA | 28-12-2020 17:01

Numbers tight as Senate prepares for historic abortion bill vote

Session set to begin 4pm Tuesday. Outcome uncertain, some outlets predict 32-32 tie, a situation that would grant Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner the deciding vote.

A bill to allow the voluntary interruption of pregnancy (IVE) in Argentina will be debated tomorrow in the Senate, with the government of President Alberto Fernández hoping it will win approval following its successful passage through the lower house earlier this month.

The debate on whether to legalise abortion will start at 4pm and though the numbers seem to be tight, the Casa Rosada is confident it will become law.

Although some senators have requested changes be made to the bill in order to ensure its passage, the ruling Frente de Todos coalition has ruled that possibility out, arguing that modifications would mean the bill would be returned to the Chamber of Deputies. It wants the initiative to go to a vote now.

The bill’s outcome remains uncertain, though it is clear that the circumstances are more favourable than in 2018, when a bill to legalise abortion cleared the lower house before failing in the Senate.

The Noticias Argentinas news agency, citing polling by analysts on Monday, predicted that 32 senators will vote in favour, with the same number lined up against. That would lead to a tie-break with Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who chairs the upper house, given a casting vote.

Other outlets have predicted a 34-34 tie in theory, with the certainty of some of those votes complicated by other issues. For example, former president Carlos Menem – a staunch opponent of the move – is hospitalised and his health difficulties are expected to prevent him from voting. Tucumán senator José Alperovich, on leave from the Senate, will also not be given a say. 

At least three votes are still undefined, while government-aligned Río Negro senator Alberto Weretilneck has requested changes to the bill and may abstain.

It looks like Salta’s Sergio "Oso" Leavy may end up playing a key role. He voted against the bill two years ago, but has indicated he may change that position. President Alberto Fernández has met with the senator, in a bid to convince him to back the initiative.

Demonstrations in favour and against the bill have taken place in recent days, with both sides set to stage large rallies on Tuesday outside Congress.

A previous attempt to legalise abortion two years ago passed through the Chamber of Deputies, before being defeated in the Senate. The legalisation of abortion was a campaign promise made by President Alberto Fernández ahead of the 2019 election. He initially said a bill would be sent upon taking office, but the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic stalled the effort.



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