ARGENTINA: Women get legal rights to abortion due to rape
Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente – WNN Opinion
(WNN) Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA: A few days ago, the Supreme Court of Argentina, in a decision in favor of the basic sense of justice, said in a statement that certain cases of abortion, those involving rape, won’t be punishable anymore: this means that neither the woman who was raped – regardless of age or mental illness – nor the doctor who conducted the abortion can be jailed or prosecuted. The only requirement set by the court is if the woman who requires it declares in an affidavit that she has been the victim of rape. The court sentence also notes that the decision about abortion is personal and between the woman affected and her doctor.
The Supreme Tribunal of the Republic of Argentina made a recent decision – which covers comprehensive and nationwide coverage – after revisiting the case of A.G., a 15-year-0ld teenager who in the beginning of 2010 claimed to a tribunal court in the province of Chubut that she gave authorization to end a pregnancy that was the product of a rape committed by her stepfather, a policeman who had sexually abused her since she was 11. Because of the laws in 2010 A.G. had to file a case with a local court after the hospital in Comodoro Rivadavia refused to perform an abortion for her pregnancy under rape.
Even though the court statement doesn’t legalize abortion as a free practice per se, the new law has two beneficial effects: In one hand, it recognizes the rights of women to decide their state of a pregnancy resulting from a crime, which is an improvement on a women’s autonomy over her body. The new court decision also sets an important contribution and precedent in order to re-open a new national level of debate on abortion in Argentina.
According to Human Rights Watch, 500,000 abortions are performed illegally and secretly each year in Argentina. This means that 40 percent of all pregnancies end interrupted, and in most cases, in awful and dangerously unsanitary conditions. Nearly 80,000 women each year are hospitalized due to complications after an abortion– the leading cause of maternal death in Argentina, representing 30 percent of the maternal deaths.
In many cases complicated abortions and deaths from these abortions are not reported to authorities.
For every woman who seeks medical help due to complications, seven others in the same situation do not seek help.
There is a juicy business behind the punishment of women who require an abortion: It’s estimated that in Argentina, an illegal abortion costs around $1,000 U.S. dollars. This means, according to data in the number of illegal abortions each year, $500,000,000 of illegal cash is generated — which is as much illegal cash as the money generated in the illegal selling of drugs or in the trafficking of people.
The current bill to legalize abortion was first introduced in Argentina’s Parliament on May 28th, 2007. On March 16th, 2010 the organizations associated with the National Campaign for the Right to a Legal, Safe and Free Abortion resubmitted the bill, this time with more than 33 signatures of regional government Deputies. The new discussion about the bill began in the Committee for Criminal Affairs of National Congress in Argentina on November 1st, 2011. During this time, the project didn’t get the required quorum to be approved as a law of the Republic.
This week, with the signatures by more than 40 Deputies of the government headed by Deputy Adela Segarra, the text of the law for a “Legal, Safe and Free Abortion” will be presented again in the National Congress with the sponsorship of the organizational membership of the National Campaign for the ‘Right to a Legal, Safe and Free Abortion,’ along with a broad support from public opinion.
The initiative on voluntary interruption of pregnancy states that – in general – every woman has the right to decide the voluntary interruption of pregnancy during the first twelve weeks of gestational process and should have access to legal, safe and free health system services under the conditions determined by law. Further, it proposes medical and psychological humanitarian assistance before, during and after an abortion. Also, the initiative demands the adoption, enactment and effective implementation of other complementary laws to improve coverage in Argentina’s public health, like integral sexual education in schools and responsible parenthood.
As the Supreme Court of Argentina understands very well abortion is a matter of social justice. This is not only in cases of rape. It’s a matter of basic justice for those women who also decide it freely. The suffering caused by the criminalization of abortion is burdened almost exclusively on the poor. There is a clear inequality between the situation of women with resources who can pay for an illegal abortion in a relatively safe and discrete environment and the woman who struggle to pay without resources; without safety; without proper care; who must face risks to their health and even their life to achieve the same goal.
WNN – Women News Network culture columnist and Latin American social critic Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente is a feminist, and a Muslim woman, living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Born in Chile, Rivera is also an enthusiastic speaker on issues of gender and empowerment who has led volunteer programs for rural communities in the Peruvian highlands. Through her human rights work she believes strongly in the power of words to change the world.
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