independent.ie- Argentina has moved to legalise abortion, becoming the first major Latin American country to pass legislation in a huge victory for its growing women’s rights movement.
Outside the National Congress there were tears from people on both sides of the debate as the senate votes were tabulated: 38 in favour and 29 against, a significant margin for a vote that many thought was too close to call.
The bill allows the procedure through the 14th week of pregnancy, in a snub to the strong influence of the Catholic Church in the region.
The “marea verde”, or green wave movement – which has come to symbolise the pro-legalisation campaign – dominated the square, vibrating with anticipation before the news was official, singing “legalise hospital abortion”.
People waved green scarves as they let out cries of joy and sobbed while embracing friends, some unable to put into words what the moment meant.
“We are so happy, we’re in shock,” said Eugenia Ghiotto (42), from the province of Buenos Aires. She recalled the “bitter taste” they had just two years ago when the senate rejected a similar bill.
“But we knew that we would be back and we would win this. This is a struggle that has taken many years.”
The bill legalises abortion up until the 14th week of pregnancy and later in the term in instances of rape or if the woman’s life or health is at risk. It states that abortions will be provided free of charge in the healthcare system.
It also preserves the right of the doctor to declare a moral or religious objection to providing the procedure, but states that they must refer the woman to someone who will.
Argentina is now the largest country to legalise abortion in a part of the world dominated by anti-abortion laws. Only Uruguay, Cuba and Guyana, along with Mexico City and the Mexican state of Oaxaca, have also legalised it broadly.
“Today we are a better society that widens the rights of women and guarantees public health,” tweeted President Alberto Fernandez, who put forward the bill, the first president to do so in Argentina.
The victory is the work of a resurgent feminist movement in Argentina that coalesced in 2015 over high rates of violence against women and gave rise to the “Ni Una Menos” (Not One Less) movement against feminicides.
It adopted the long-standing campaign to legalise abortion as one of its key battles, combining decades of work in the trenches by activists, lawyers and doctors with the demands of a younger generation.
The bill had faced stiff opposition from the Catholic Church, which issued a call for its followers to pray and fast as an act of opposition to the bill.