Argentina Legalizes Abortion
Argentina Legalizes Abortion, a Milestone in a Conservative Region
The Senate vote on Wednesday was a major victory for Latin America’s growing feminist movement, and its ripple effects are likely to be widespread.

The high-stakes vote, during 12 hours of often dramatic debate in the Senate, gripped the nation and exposed the tensions between a conservative society long influenced by the Roman Catholic Church, and a more secular generation that is fired up by a growing feminist movement.

“When I was born, women did not vote, we did not inherit, we could not manage our assets, we could not have bank accounts, we didn’t have credit cards, we couldn’t go to university,” Senator Silvia Sapag said in an emotional speech after the vote. “When I was born, women were nobody.”

Now, she added, for all the women who fought for those legal rights and more, “let it be law.”

Argentina’s vote to legalize abortion is likely to ripple across Latin America.

The vote, which came late Wednesday after 12 hours of often dramatic debate, set off rejoicing among abortion activists Buenos Aries, above, and offers hope to reproductive-rights advocates in other socially conservative nations in the region.

Argentina’s outcome was a striking rebuke of Pope Francis, who injected himself in his homeland’s bitter political debate, and a setback for the country’s evangelical Protestant churches, which had joined forces with the Catholic Church in opposing the change.

... Uruguay, Cuba and Guyana are the only other countries in Latin America to allow abortion without restriction in early pregnancy. Argentina, like a number of other countries in the region, had previously permitted abortion in cases of rape or if the pregnancy posed a risk to a woman’s health. Although legal, abortions in these cases were often difficult to secure.

Other Latin American countries, including El Salvador and Honduras, have stricter limits or total prohibitions, with zealous prosecution of women whose pregnancies don’t end in a live birth. Women who miscarry often fall under suspicion, and those convicted of having abortions can be sentenced to decades in prison.

“Legalizing abortion in Argentina is a gigantic victory that protects fundamental rights and will inspire change in Latin America,” said Tamara Taraciuk Broner, the Americas deputy director for Human Rights Watch. “It’s predictable, however, that this will also mobilize pro-life groups.”