The difficult struggle for abortion in Argentina

Aug 6, 2018 | Latin America, Juntas y a la Izquierda

The definitive battle for the Law of Voluntary Pregnancy Interruption (IVE) is upon us. On August 8th the Argentine Senate has to vote on the Bill that was approved by the Chamber of Deputies on June 14th.

Until just a few months, attaining the right of women and pregnant people to decide seemed impossible. The Bill had been presented six times and lost parliamentary status without being treated each time. And this time it was presented with a new conservative administration in government and an Argentine Pope in the Vatican.

But the force of the feminist revolution that has taken Argentina and the world by storm these past few years proved stronger. The irruption of the #NiUnaMenos movement against femicide in 2015 initiated a feminist wave that snowballed and radicalized, mutually developing along with expressions of the same phenomenon that shook the United States, Spain, Poland, Mexico, Chile and beyond. Argentina, for example, was one of the epicenters of the international women´s strikes of March 8th in 2017 and 2018.

It was the pressure of the feminist movement that led president Macri´s administration to enable the congressional debate of the IVE bill. It was the pañuelazos (demonstrations brandishing the green handkerchiefs that identify the movement) of thousands of women at the Congress each Tuesday, the massification of the debate, and the million people who mobilized on June 13th and 14th, that exerted the pressure that achieved the victory of the Bill, by a slim margin, in the lower house of Congress.

But the battle of the Senate is harder, and not going so well. If the vote were held today, the Bill would lose, since the 36 Senators who have confirmed that they will vote against it make up half of the 72 members of the Senate, and even if the rest voted in favor, the tie breaker would fall in the hands of anti-choice Vice president Gabriela Michetti. Moreover, there are only 32 positive votes as of today. There remain two undecided Senators, as well as one who has announced that she will abstain, and another who will not be present.

Our feminist organization Juntas y a la Izquierda, and our party, the MST, is arguining within the Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion to radicalize the struggle because, after the approval of the Bill in the lower house, the Catholic Church and other sections of the Right -who trusted the Bill would fail there- have waken and gone on the offensive. Also, parts of the movement have advocated a mistaken and demobilizing triumphalism, channeling all efforts away from street actions towards parliamentary negotiations. The main newspaper of Argentina Clarín has rcently noted that the Campaign has “lost the streets since the vote in the Chamber”. Such is the case, that the leadership of the Campaign has decided to place the main stage of the A8 mobilization ten blocks form the Congress, distancing the Senate from the pressure of the “green wave”. The abstentionism of part of the Left, and the coattailing of another, have not helped efforts to reverse this dynamic.

In any case, the streets will have the final say. Although it is very difficult, since the pressure would have to be enough to convince both undecided votes, and force at least three anti-choice Senators to not show up, we cannot rule out any outcome. Consequently, we are sparing no efforts towards building the largest mobilization possible on A8, the only variable that could reverse the current situation, toward the approval of the Bill.

On Monday, for example, Juntas y a la Izquierda and the MST organized pañuelazos at the offices of the UCR around the country. This party boasts democratic and secular credentials, but 9 of its 13 Senators will vote against the Bill. And we are preparing to mobilize with all our forces on the 8th.

A fundamental part of our efforts is placed into the international campaign of solidarity that we are promoting. The organizations of our Anticapitalist Network, and other organizations, will hold pañuelazos at Argentine embassies in Chile, Venezuela, Paraguay, Catalonia, the Spanish State, France, Uruguay, Colombia, Japan, Peru, Brazil, Belgium, Italy, Britain, Costa Rica, Mexico, Australia, Ecuador and elsewhere.

Also, we are compiling and disseminating messages of solidarity from around the world, including that of Ruth Koppinger, the Irish Socialist Party MP who spearheded the fight for the referendum that lifted the ban on abortion there, and of feminist leaders and activists from the ISO and abortion rights organizations of the United States.

The result of this feminist, anti-patriarchal and anticlerical struggle is yet to be written, and a short term victory is not the most probable. The strength of the mobilization and the active international solidarity that we are achieving, however, will be key for what possibilities of turning things around remain, and whatever the outcome of the Senate vote on Wednesday, it will be but another round of a struggle that will continue.

Celeste Fierro, Juntas y a la Izquierda