BUENOS AIRES/SANTIAGO – In a historical decision, Argentina has legalized abortion. Activists in Chile now hope to replicate this victory. Meanwhile, conservatives are warning of the consequences.
Argentina’s senate has legalized abortion for up to the 14th week. With this, Argentina has become the first major South American country to enshrine female reproductive rights in the law. It joins smaller Uruguay, which legalized abortion in 2012 already.
Many Chilean women celebrated the decision. It gave them a boost to keep fighting for meaningful change.
Feminist collective Lastesis said according to CNN Chile that “abortion has to be legal and free in the entire region and [Argentina’s decision] marks a precedent for the rest of the countries in the region where women don’t have the option to decide.”
Lastesis added, “our Argentine counterparts are an example to follow and an inspiration to all Chilean women who hope to one day have this right as well.”
Regional conservatives like Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro but also the Catholic Church reacted irritated, however.
Catholic Church officials warned the decision will only deepen social divisions while Bolsonaro tweeted “abortion will never be approved on Brazilian ground.”
Abortion in Chile
Chile allowed abortion in 2017, but only if a doctor certifies the pregnancy or birth threatens the woman’s life, a professional confirms the fetus will not survive, or if the woman can prove the pregnancy resulted from rape – which could be impossible until after birth. While this ‘three-cause abortion’ law was seen as a step forward, it discourages women from seeking abortion because they would have to relive trauma or confront abusive partners. Doctors – male and female – are also overwhelmingly deeply conservative.
And the law could only pass because it allowed, bizarrely, some actors to opt out. Private clinics, where usually the elite’s reactionary wing has business interests, are advertising that they won’t carry out abortions resulting from rape. But the private health sector has also defied that law more generally.
Chile’s Women Minister, Mónica Zalaquett, who is an anti-abortion zealot, has not yet commented on Argentina’s decision.