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Abortion debate in Argentina heats up

The commission is expected to send a bill that would allow women to interrupt pregnancy during the first 14 weeks to the Lower House floor.

While Argentina’s Congress has debated abortion before, the topic has garnered more attention since centre-right President Mauricio Macri said he was in favour of debate and would encourage his allies in Congress to vote as they saw fit even though he was personally opposed.

Argentina, like most countries in Latin America, currently permits abortion in specific cases, including rape and risk to the mother’s life. Rights groups have criticised a requirement for a judge’s permission, which often results in lengthy delays or denial of the procedure.

An issue that has divided political parties, the abortion proposal could pass the lower house but will likely face resistance in the more conservative Senate.

Adolfo Rubinstein, Argentine health minister said, “This public debate has clearly promoted the social visibility of this problem and the health visibility and this is an enormous facilitator so that we, from the country’s health ministry and from the provincial health ministry, can really start to talk seriously about sexual health in schools, can start to talk seriously and educate regarding contraception and responsible procreation and we can definitively prevent abortion that is not the solution for anything, for anything, that is a failure and about which we must in some way act.”

If the bill does pass both houses, Macri has said that he would not veto it.

The bill emphasises the danger Argentine women face in seeking clandestine abortions, particularly poor women. About a third of maternal deaths in the country are related to such procedures, the bill says.

Latin America and the Caribbean have some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws, with six countries in the region operating blanket bans.

Argentina’s neighbour Uruguay is an outlier in Latin America in permitting abortions. A Chilean court last year upheld a law legalising abortion in certain cases. Chile had been one of only a handful of countries worldwide where the procedure was banned without exception.

If Argentina legalises abortion, it would be the largest country in Latin America to do so.

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