Latin America & Caribbean

Argentina abortion: Crowds gather to back pro-choice bill

Activists with green handkerchiefs, which symbolises the abortion rights movement, demonstrate to mark the revival of their campaign to legalise abortion, in front of the National Congress in Buenos Aires, on May 28, 2019 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Thousands of people gathered outside the Congress building to back the legalisation of abortion

A large crowd has marched on the Congress building in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, to demand the decriminalisation of abortion.

Tuesday's march came as a bill was introduced to legalise terminations in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

A similar bill was defeated at almost the last hurdle last year when senators voted 38 to 31 against it.

Currently abortion in Argentina is allowed only in cases of rape, or if the mother's health is in danger.

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Thousands of women wearing green handkerchiefs, which have become symbolic of their fight to legalise abortion, chanted slogans and held up placards backing the latest attempt to get the bill made into law.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The demonstrators held up their trademark green handkerchiefs

Advocates of the bill say getting it passed is an urgent public health matter as official figures suggest that illegal abortions are the leading cause of maternal deaths in Argentina.

The health ministry estimates that at least 350,000 illegal abortions are performed in Argentina every year but women's rights groups think that number may be much higher.

The founder of the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, Nina Burgo, said that the bill introduced on Tuesday was largely the same as that defeated last year but that it included some extra safeguards for women seeking an abortion.

The defeat of the bill in the senate last year - after it had been narrowly passed in the lower house - was a blow to pro-choice activists who nevertheless promised to introduce new legislation as soon as parliamentary rules allowed.

A documentary about the activist's effort entitled Que Sea Ley was recently screened at the Cannes film festival.

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Media captionPro-choice campaigners and a documentary film crew wore green and chanted "solidarity" on red carpet at Cannes

Among those gathered to support the new bill on Tuesday were many young women.

High-school student Abril González told Reuters news agency that she hoped that legislators would "think of the lives of the girls that have died from secret abortions in subhuman conditions" and pass the bill.

Others at the march said that they wanted to put pressure on candidates running for the general election in October.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many of those demonstrating on Tuesday were young women

Pro-choice campaigners have for years tried to get bills legalising abortion passed but the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and opposition by conservative politicians have scuppered their efforts.

In Latin America, only Uruguay and Cuba have decriminalised abortion. It is largely prohibited across the region except in restricted cases.

In the US, the state of Alabama earlier this month banned abortions even in the case of rape or incest and three other states have also recently tightened their abortion laws.

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