On December 30, 2020, Argentina joined the short list of countries where abortion is a right without restrictions on motive, that is, without the pregnant person having to specify a reason for requesting termination, within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The bill, approved in December after receiving 38 votes in favour, 29 against, and one abstention, was formalized on January 14, 2021.
Although in some regions of Argentina abortions have already been carried out, the passing of the law on Access to Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy (IVE) has sparked what seems to be the next historic struggle—to ensure its implementation.
Less than a month before the new law came into effect across the country, Judge Marta Beatriz Aucar de Trotti, the head of the Civil and Commercial Court No. 19 of the city of Resistencia, in Chaco province, accepted an appeal filed by a group of citizens arguing that life begins at conception and that the law is contrary to this. As a result, at the end of January 2021, Aucar de Trotti implemented a precautionary measure that suspended the implementation, in Chaco province, of the IVE law.
The ruling was immediately appealed by the civil society organisation Unidos por la Diversidad on the grounds that it was a federal and not a provincial law, then by the ministry of health calling for the case to be heard by a judge with national jurisdiction, and finally by a Chaco State prosecutor, Cecilia Fernández Almendra. However, the precautionary measure remains in force; so although the right to legal abortion is valid throughout the country, its application is currently suspended in Chaco.
As well as the ruling in Chaco, an appeal and a legal action have been filed in Córdoba province against the Argentinian president, Alberto Fernández, and the parliamentarians who voted in favour of the law. The action filed by the civil society organization Derechos Humanos y Violencia de Género (Human Rights and Gender Violence) includes a request for an impeachment trial against the president and argues that the law is unconstitutional.
The use of various tactics to get the IVE Law declared unconstitutional and the request for precautionary measures do not come as a surprise, as groups opposing the law said on social networks that “No unconstitutional law is going to discourage us.”
Seguimos luchando en contra del aborto, seguimos defendiendo al inocente, seguimos empoderando a la mujer con educación, con herramientas, con amor, en una sociedad rota.
Ninguna ley inconstitucional nos va a desarmar. Ninguna ley inconstitucional va a cambiar nuestra postura. pic.twitter.com/W3D5rFrS7F
— Unidad Provida ? (@unidadprovidaok) December 30, 2020
We continue to fight against abortion, we continue to defend the innocent, we continue to empower women with education, with tools, with love, in a broken society.
No unconstitutional law is going to discourage us. No unconstitutional law is going to change our stance.
In December 2019, a year before the law on abortion was passed, the Medical College of Misiones Province announced the creation of a Register of Conscientious Objectors, “in order to protect the right of those who, for moral, ethical, philosophical, cultural, religious or ideological reasons, consider themselves exempt from performing medical acts that are in contradiction with their convictions.” The request to be included in the register is voluntary, personal and confidential.
“The provincial decree in force establishes that the medical institution cannot object, and the doctor, in any such case should immediately refer [the patient to another doctor],” explained Luis Flores, president of the College of Doctors of Misiones, and he recognized that “the law is clear about the doctor's obligation to refer [a patient], and there is no discussion about that”.
“Social justice is the power to decide”
In contrast to the provinces of Chaco, Cordoba, and Misiones, the law is being implemented smoothly in other regions. According to statements by the Minister for Women, Gender and Diversity, Elisabeth Gómez Alcorta, the city and province of Buenos Aires, and La Pampa, are among the districts that are best implementing the law.
After the law on abortion came into force, Estefania Cioffi, a doctor, feminist activist, and member of the Network of Health Professionals for the Right to Decide, shared an image on Instagram of the first prescription of misoprostol (one of the most commonly used drugs for abortion) in Argentina, with her stamp and signature.
“Social justice is being able to decide,” Cioffi wrote next to the image she uploaded from the poor 1-11-14 neighbourhood in the middle of Buenos Aires city, where she works as a general practitioner.
View this post on Instagram
First VOLUNTARY Termination of Pregnancy ?
Today the right to decide is a reality after years of feminist organizing. Emotion overwhelms my body.
We are here to safeguard Law 27.610, to lovingly support, to ALWAYS support.
Social justice is to be able to decide
YOU CAN COUNT ON US
Furthermore, the national law decriminalising abortion took precedence over provincial laws limiting access to misoprostol. Mendoza province, where the sale of misoprostol was restricted, is an example. Mendoza's Ministry of Health, through a decision published in the official Gazette, announced the updating of its regulations in accordance with the legalisation of Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy (IVE).
Another example of adaptation to the new law is the Program for Strengthening the Right to Abortion made by IOMA, a healthcare insurance scheme in Buenos Aires province founded on a solidarity-based healthcare system. The program, which proposes to cover 100 per cent of the procedure, is the first insurance in Argentina to institutionalise the right to decide.
The ups and downs since the approval of Law 27.610 show that the freedom to decide is not guaranteed only by the passing of a law. Even though in some parts of the country the struggle to ensure the right to abortion continues, the law is clear, and professionals in charge of telephone or face-to-face consultations in health centres must guarantee this right from the first contact.