Women, Gender, and Diversity Minister Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta confirmed this weekend that the Alberto Fernández administration is preparing a "project to legalise abortion—and not just decriminalisation."
Alcorta’s statements come in the wake of comments by Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero, who recently implied a bill from the government would eliminate penalties for, but not legalise, abortions.
In an interview with the Futurock radio station, Gómez Alcorta indicated that the bill would cement the notion that it is the State’s responsibility to assure access to health services that provide safe and secure abortions.
She declined to offer a date for the legislation, however, explaining that formally sending the project to Congress would depend on “the other deadlines that the president is managing.”
A day earlier, Cafiero had presented a different perspective than the one expressed yesterday by the minister. In dialogue with Radio Continental, the Cabinet chief said that it was "necessary to advance with decriminalisation and then with legalisation," implying a two-stream path to reform. He also acknowledged that there was strong opposition to reform, saying that there are "diverse voices in Argentina" on the subject, and that "sometimes you have to make decisions, although some Argentines may feel offended."
The Health Ministry estimates there 350,000 illegal abortions annually in Argentina. Improperly executed abortions are a primary driver of maternal death in Argentina. In 2017, it accounted for nearly 15 percent of such fatalities, according to the government.
The ferocity around the abortion debate in Argentina has grown since a 2018 measure to decriminalise and legalise the procedure failed in Congress. President Alberto Fernández promised to make a similar resolution a priority in his new government, but a bill has yet to be put forward.
"When we talk about the issue of abortion, it is the first time in Argentine history” that a presidential candidate has focused his campaign on abortion, said Gómez Alcorta yesterday.
The official acknowledged that "we do not know what Congress is going to do, but we already have experience with this and we know that there are social sectors that will resist it."
The 2018 bill passed the lower house Chamber of Deputies, before being rejected by the Senate.
The Catholic Church is gearing up to once again intervene forcefully in the debate against abortion, reports over the weekend suggested, amid fear that positions on other issues will be interpreted as an implicit endorsement of the project. The Argentine Episcopal Conference, or Synod, has already set an agenda for what will be its main action in rejecting the project to legalise abortion: a Mass in Luján on International Women's Day, while the country's main evangelical organisations are set to define their strategy in the coming weeks.