In Argentina, we have another case where religion has poisoned the debate on abortion and resulted in the deaths of so many young women, all to ostensibly save a fetus, or embryo. But it appears that the women of Argentina will soon gain the right to a legal abortion. This is a reminder that we have to protect the same right here in America from the ever-regressive forces of Republicans and the church.
Argentina’s women have not been beaten on abortion – change will come
by Claudia Piñiero, in The Guardian
Argentina’s senators could not understand what was being debated: legal abortion or clandestine abortion? Or they did not want to understand? Thirty-eight senators voted for the absolute rejection of a bill to allow legal termination, without showing any willingness to introduce changes or improve the proposals. They simply said “no” – as if they were judges instead of legislators. They showed an arrogant attitude, absolutely detached from a reality in Argentina where there are women who die every year from complications arising after clandestine abortions.To reject the bill, they pronounced all kind of barbarities from their seats: proclaiming that they were saving embryos, without explaining how, and even suggesting that intrafamily rape does not imply violence. A senator confessed that she would reject the bill although she had not had the opportunity to read it. Several senators, including Esteban Bullrich, the country’s minister of education until last year, insisted that the cost and inconveniences of surgical abortion were too high, despite being told a thousand and one times that abortion-inducing medication such as misoprostol does not require surgery. One senator said that the proposed law would be impossible to implement in the provinces because perhaps a woman would seek hospital attention at a time when the only doctor on call was a dentist.
We heard our vice-president, Gabriela Michetti, who presided at the session, call a senator an “asshole” for merely requesting to allow another female senator to continue her speech. Michetti had not realised her microphone was on. The senator that Michetti insulted belongs to her own Propuesta Republicana party and attended the session to vote in favour of the bill despite the fact that just a few weeks ago his wife and son died in an explosion caused by a gas leak.
At the end of the session, the vice-president was heard shouting “Well done!” – it was as if what had just transpired was not a legislative session in which it was decided not to expand rights for women, but a football match. Not even the most seasoned comedy writer could have imagined so much nonsense. Of course, what makes it tragic is that this is not a comedy but the Argentine Republic. It is true that other senators gave brilliant speeches – argumentative, sensible, empathetic – but they were in the minority and the bill was rejected. We, as voters, still have a lot to learn.
Although the senators who voted for abortion to remain clandestine, and the women who practise it to continue to be sentenced to up to four years in prison, it is not a time to be sad in my country. We are standing in a better place and will not take a step back. The cultural battle is won and the path forward is clear.
Now we can talk publicly about the fact that in my country, in this new century, there are women who resort to using branches of parsley, knitting needles or hangers to carry out abortions. Some inventive member of the public has called these senators who voted to restrict women’s rights senadores percha (hanger senators) – with a hashtag that trended on Twitter.
This should not be a debate about religious beliefs, or about the private decisions everyone must take for themselves – but about public health. The senators did not understand – or they understood but did not care – because they privileged above everything else their faith, what a priest ordered them to do, or the supposed votes they hope to reap in next year’s elections.
These senators proved not to be up to the times or the position they occupy. They showed that they are not moved by women killed in clandestine abortions. That is a cost they are willing to pay. We must keep this in mind and remember it because they are the people who have the power to make decisions about our lives. And that far exceeds just this issue.
Looking forward, however, we have everything we need to win. We did not lose – those who wanted to maintain the status quo lost: nothing will be the same after this debate. The battle we all fought together was won – society legalised abortion by taking the debate out from under the carpet.
First by calling things by their names: we can now say “abortion” – the word was taboo before. Second, we have moved to a position where we can debate whether we are in favour of a law permitting, safe, free, legal abortion. And we have definitely won the battle for women to be able to say: “I had an abortion.” Around family tables, in offices, classrooms, sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts and friends stepped forward to say something they could never say before. And we embraced them. No senator or senator will be able to take those hugs away from us.
From now on, when a woman realises she is pregnant and does not want to continue that pregnancy for her own reasons, she will no longer be alone. Neither will she have to keep silent or bear that feeling of guilt. She will not feel reproach and shame. She will have more information about what to do and what not to do, about what risks she should not take. The state will still be absent but we will not. There are groups throughout the country willing to help.
The path is clear: the bill will be resubmitted and will eventually be approved. Sooner or later abortion will be legalised in Argentina. We will embrace every woman who has to undergo an abortion, while the senators who voted against the bill will have to bear the guilt of those who die as the result of unsafe abortions. I do not know if these senators will cry, I do not know if they will pray, but we will remember it until they can see the damage they have done to us.
• Claudia Piñeiro is an Argentinian novelist and screenwriter