Let it be legal
In November, Argentina’s president Alberto Fernandez presented a bill to Congress to legalise abortion, becoming the country’s first president in history to endorse an abortion bill.
The debate for the ‘Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy’ project has already started the first day of December and it will be voted on in the National Congress tomorrow December 10 – on Human Rights Day. If it gets a majority, the Senate will have the final say.
From the beginning of his presidency in December 2019, Fernandez has shown commitment to standing up for the rights of women and girls and he has honoured his words to help ensure that #AbortoLegal2020 becomes a reality! In his own words: ‘it has always been my commitment that the State accompany all pregnant people in their maternity projects and take care of the life and health of those who decide to interrupt their pregnancy. The State must not ignore any of these realities’.
However, this struggle is not recent and cannot be accredited to this administration alone.
In June 2018, the Argentine Congress did approve the legalisation of abortion mainly thanks to the millions of feminists who took the streets and demonstrated around the whole country. *BUT* the Senate rejected it only a couple of months afterwards, breaking the hearts of the million standing in vigil overnight. After that, Argentina remains without a law that gives women the freedom of reproductive rights.
Still, women, girls, trans and non-binary people all over the country and worldwide have not stopped fighting for it. We haven’t gone anywhere. And hopefully this time, we’ll get what we deserve.
But what do we mean with ‘reproductive rights’? It means to be able to freely exercise our sexuality, without fear of persecution; it means the right to a sex education free of prejudices and that teaches us to differentiate between abuse and love; it means free and easy access to information on contraceptive methods and family planning; it means the right to decide over our bodies, to not undergo forced sterilizations, to be able to decide if we want and how we want to continue the route to motherhood.
In other words, it is the right to be able to parent whenever we want to and if we ever want to and not be subjected to a pre-imposed destiny. The decision has always got to be made in equal conditions, with abounding information and access to protection, healthcare and an education that centers our pleasures and desires as well as our health and safety.
Then, if a decision of parenting was made, it must be accompanied with a societal responsibility and not only forced upon women and feminised bodies – that is the importance of reproductive justice, which we’ll have to leave for another piece.
But we want to make it clear: we will never be totally free until we are free from the obligatoriness of reproducing life and the lack of a fair distribution of caring responsibilities.
As mentioned, this ain’t a new struggle though. Feminists have continuously fought for the sisters that aren’t here anymore and for the sexual freedom of future generations.
I’m sure many will recognise the symbol of our fight in Argentina (and now globally), the green scarves, as it has been very visible in most feminist gatherings for the past couple of years. This emblem is a product of 15 years of organised struggle that the ‘National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion” has been engaged in. With fury and love, demanding the autonomy of our bodies and the liberation of our desires.
Why is this so important to Argentinian feminism?
The rights of women and girls and pregnant people cannot be postponed and public health must be a priority now more than ever. In isolation and in a pandemic, women still have abortions.
In Argentina alone, there are approximately 500,000 clandestine abortions every year and some have even gone to prison for doing so.
In his speech, the president stated that on average, over 38,000 women are hospitalised every year. And that since 1983, more than 3000 women have died in these practices.
This includes girls as young as 11 years old.
The situation is so critical that there is a social outcry under the name of ‘girls not mothers’ to visibilise the sexual and reproductive violence that girls suffer with abortion restrictions.
In November 2018, the death of a Wichi (an indigenous people of South America) 13 year old girl from Chaco Province – who was given a late caesarean to preserve her pregnancy that was the result of a rape – shook the country.
That year, the families of two 11 and 12 year old girls requested the interruption of their pregnancies that were also products of sexual violence but the two girls were forced to gestate and subjected to late caesareans .
One of the girls, who was raped by her grandma’s boyfriend, had said “I want you to take that thing out, what the old man put inside of me”. Despite this, when in the surgery room, the doctors denied the girl a safe abortion pleading “moral objection” (rejection of a medical practice on moral grounds).
Honestly, CAN WE ALLOW A WORLD IN WHICH A CHILD IS FORCED TO GIVE BIRTH AFTER SEXUAL ASSAULT? F*ck that.
“Forcing children to give birth is a form of torture” and is one of the many extremely important reasons why we musn’t let these rights be denied to us and our girls.
Then, who really lives and dies in clandestine-hood?
Besides being an obviously gendered struggle, abortion is also about class and it is about race.
It is mostly the poor, indigenous and racialised women that die in clandestine conditions because they’re not able to afford a well hidden and costly clinic, or because their bodies are policed more than any others. They have to resort to methods like parsley, coathangers, knitting needles, among other dangerous tools.
Ironically, here is where the catholic church will get involved and say we cannot intervene in the ‘sanctity’ of life – only the fetus’ ‘life’, not the pregnant person though. Most of the catholic community will pretend to fight for “the two lives” but, again, caring only about what’s in the uterus during the pregnancy, afterwards is no man’s problem. That is, until a 15 year old daughter from a private nuns’ school gets pregnant and mummy and daddy force her to have an abortion while everyone turns a blind eye. Of course, they immediately return to the “”””pro life”””” march on the way out of the clinic.
Now, of course any girl should be able to have an abortion if they wish to do so. But the hypocrisy runs deep in our society and must be eradicated. ALL girls should have access to legal, safe and free abortions. Not just the ones who can afford it and hide it in plain sight.
The world is watching.
Argentinian women, girls and pregnant people are being allowed to die or butchered. Of course this is a feminist issue. Reproductive rights are being violated right now, but not only in Argentina.
Only 4 countries (out of more than 40) in Latin America and the Caribbean have no restrictions abortion rights: Cuba, Guayana, Puerto Rico and Uruguay.
But, before people go on to say: ‘omg how regressive is Latin America’, in the Global North, regression is just around the corner – and much closer to home than you think, honey. I’m sick and tired of the rhetoric that portrays only the Global South as the backward countries.
The rising far-right and neo-fascist waves (in the Americas, Europe and beyond) want to retreat to another century by overthrowing rights and reviving discussions we thought were settled.
Our hard fought and, in some cases, long gained rights are being revisited. We see that happening in Poland for example: “Poland’s top court has ruled that abortions in cases of foetal defects are unconstitutional. The country’s abortion laws were already among the strictest in Europe but the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling will mean an almost total ban.” [Poland abortion: Top court bans almost all terminations]
The Polish government PiS (Law and Justice), after having its president winning on an explicitly homophobic platform, is waging war on human rights by banning abortion in nearly all cases. As if times aren’t testing enough, with COVID, travelling abroad to have access to abortions becomes a near impossible option. This means the unthinkable.
UCL PhD student and feminist activist at Dziewuchy London, Marta Kotwas, affirmed: “The Constitutional Tribunal ruling effectively bans 98% or legal abortions in Poland. From the legal point of view it’s not clear whether it’s come into force yet but some hospitals are already refusing terminations for fear of consequences. It seems that the government and the ruling party want to wait it out until the protests disappear or are involved in some bargaining (which, as we know, will only make the situation worse for those who need abortions)”.
This is just one example of why the world must show their solidarity, support and be VERY vocal: they’re coming for you too. The global political scenario is one of huge retrocession in terms of human rights and social justice and we must keep vigilant, strong and ready to fight back at any point.
Countries in Latin America are fighting for reproductive rights and feminist movements have their own agency (so ditch the white saviour complex, please). Nevertheless, the demand must be as an international force. We need to put on pressure, not only in our countries where there’s a lack of substantial rights, but we must also defend them in every corner of the world and ensure that the laws meet our demands and are implemented justly.
After all, it really is about our autonomies, our sexual freedom and our rights to choose something other than the destiny they want to box us in as human vessels.
We won’t stop until we have the law and a cultural change. It will be legal #SeraLey
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[Important Resources and Information]
PLEASE SUPPORT reproductive rights, bodily autonomy, and fighting the fascist state by donating to the ASN – the Abortion Support Network, which is a grass roots organisation enabling access to abortions in countries where access is restricted. Let’s do what we can and show international Solidarity.
DONATE – to financially support access to abortions.
https://zrzutka.pl/kasa-na-aborcyjny-dream-team – to financially support the organisers of the pro-choice media campaign : abortion dream team.
*aborcjabezgranic.pl (abortionwithoutborders) is the Polish arm of ASN, the main grassroots organisers in this movement in Poland.