The president of Argentina, Javier Milei, has presented a law that seeks to prohibit abortion in his country, even in cases of rape. The deputies of the ultra-right ruling party, Libertad Avanza, seek to make the legislation more restrictive by removing rape as a ground for non-punishable abortion.
Abortion has been legal in Argentina for 3 years, since the law allowing voluntary interruption of pregnancy in the first 14 weeks of gestation was approved by Congress. The presented law, submitted for processing this week, calls for the repeal of the Law on the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy and the repeal of the articles of the Penal Code that this law modified. The text was presented two days before the Argentine legislature rejected the controversial “omnibus law”, President Milei’s star proposal to minimize the functions of the State.
More restrictive than 100 years ago
The new legislative text presented by the party of President Javier Milei is even more restrictive than that of 1921, as it eliminates the grounds of risk to health and rape, in addition to penalizing women in most situations.
The proposal also persecutes health professionals who perform abortions. In this sense, the law calls for re-penalizing anyone who performs an abortion “at any stage of gestation”, as well as reinstating the “special disqualification” for health professionals who “abuse their science to cause an abortion or cooperate in causing it”.
The abortion law in force in Argentina is very recent. Barely three years old, it was achieved during the term of office of Peronist Alejandro Fernandez, who handed over the presidency of the country to the current head of state in December 2023. It was the culmination of several decades of struggle by feminist organizations and placed Argentina in the group of Latin American countries that allow the voluntary interruption of pregnancy.
In fact, since Argentina approved the current abortion law in December 2020, the country became a reference for other countries that wanted to go further in their legislation on the matter. This was the case of Colombia, which extended the number of weeks of gestation in which abortion is legal.
Situation in Latin America
In Latin America, there are two opposed positions on abortion: a small number of countries have legalized it, while the majority criminalize it in all or almost all cases.
In the first group, Colombia stands out for having the widest gestational limit for free abortion, allowing termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks from February 2022. Argentina, Uruguay and Cuba have also legalized it, with shorter time limits: up to 14 weeks in Argentina and up to 12 weeks in Uruguay and Cuba. Mexico legalized abortion in 2021, being free of charge but only allowed during the early stages of pregnancy, being recognized as a constitutional right. Brazil only allows abortions in cases of rape, but its highest court is considering decriminalizing it up to 12 weeks of gestation throughout the country.
In most of Latin America, abortion is illegal, permitted only in specific circumstances. Countries such as Paraguay, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Peru and Guatemala allow it in cases of risk to the life and health of the mother. In Panama, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador it is only permitted in cases of rape or serious fetal malformations that endanger the health of the mother. The laws also establish prison sentences of up to 10 years, and Guatemala recently increased the maximum penalty from 3 to 5 years.