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Argentina Becomes Largest Latin American Country to Legalize Abortion

Just before 2020 drew its curtains, Argentina became the largest Latin American country to legalize abortion.

On Dec. 30, hopeful pro-choice activists donning green hankerchiefs, flags, and face masks held their breath as a heated debate played out inside the Palace of the Argentine National Congress in Buenos Aires.

After days of standing vigil outside the congressional building, the crowd erupted in jubilation as the final vote, 38 for and 29 against with one abstention, splayed across public screens.

In an impassioned speech, Senator Silvia Sapag proudly declared, “My vote is in favour of free women, of women who can decide according to their own conscience.”

The new bill permits pregnancy termination for any reason up to 14 weeks after conception, and ensures accessibility through free service in public hospitals. This overturns the previous limited policy under which abortion was only legal in rape cases or where the mother’s health was at risk.

Heavily influenced by Catholicism and conservatism, abortion policies in Latin America have traditionally been restrictive. Including Argentina, only four countries permit abortion in early pregnancies without restrictions; other countries, such as Brazil, take a limited approach, permitting abortion only when certain (and often stringent) conditions are met. In more extreme settings, it is not uncommon to hear of women facing prison sentences for receiving abortion in countries like Honduras.

As one of the most influential nations in the Latin American region, women’s rights advocates hope Argentina’s decision will inspire its neighbors to follow suit. It is no coincidence the Argentine Congress came to their decision as the feminist movement dubbed Green Wave, or “La Marea Verde,” continues to ripple across Latin America. Though the origins of color and associated handkerchiefs are somewhat disputed, what they have come to symbolize, long overdue gender equality, rings strong among activists.

Argentine President, Alberto Fernandez, who has been an outspoken advocate of abortion legalization, will sign the bill into law.

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