Argentina’s abortion bill debate heats up

The abortion debate is continuing in Argentina with senate commissions rejecting modifications to the original bill that would have made abortions more difficult to obtain.

Conservative modifications were made to the original bill and voted on August 1 in the three commissions (health, justice and constitutional affairs) currently debating its contents before the bill heads to the full Senate on August 8.

The rejected proposals included: reducing a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy from 14 weeks to 12, allowing medical staff in private health institutions to abstain from performing an abortion on religious objections, and not penalising doctors who refuse to perform abortions.

The proposed changes were mainly put forward by senators Laura Rodriguez Machado and Ernesto Martinez, both from President Mauricio Macri’s Cambiemos party, and conservative senator Carlos Caserio.

The Front for Victory coalition, led by former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said on July 31 that it will continue to support the house bill that would allow free, safe and legal abortions up to 14 weeks.

After the commissions concluded their votes, each issued opinions on whether to vote on the house’s original draft or the modified draft. The August 8 plenary session will first have to debate which version to begin debating.

Argentina currently allows abortion only in cases of rape or risks to a woman’s health. But advocates say that even in these cases, doctors and judges often block women from carrying them out.

Argentina’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, approved a bill in June that would legalise abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

According to a 2016 report by Argentina’s health ministry, an estimated 370,000 to 522,000 Argentine women undergo illegal abortions each year with thousands being hospitalised for complications.

Illegal abortions are the leading cause of maternal death in the country.    

 [Compiled from TeleSUR English.]