No going back: The two sides in Argentina’s abortion debate

Written by Darius Rubics

It is the middle of winter in Buenos Aires, but a spring-like green has blossomed in the city in recent months.

Everywhere you go, you see women wearing emerald pañuelos (bandanas) around their necks, wrapped around their wrists, or tied to their bags.

The bandanas are the symbol of the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion which started in 2005.

Since then, it has introduced seven bills to Congress. For years, its supporters got nowhere.

But that all changed earlier this year when President Mauricio Macri, who himself opposes abortion, called for Congress to debate the latest bill.

The pace at which things have moved since has surprised everyone, and the green bandana has also come to represent a peaceful resistance by a growing women’s rights movement which argues that society needs to change.

Currently abortion is only allowed in Argentina in cases of rape, or if the mother’s health is in danger. The bill asks for the practice to be legalised in all circumstances in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

In June, the lower house narrowly passed it in a marathon debate that lasted nearly 24 hours while hundreds of thousands of women held a vigil outside.

Now, as Argentina’s Senate prepares to vote later on Wednesday, women are getting ready for another long and cold night outside the Congress building.

‘Treated like a criminal’

Ana Correa will be there, wearing her green pañuelo with pride.

Eleven years ago, when she was three months pregnant with her second child, she discovered the baby had Edwards’ syndrome (a serious genetic disorder), and doctors told her it would never live beyond birth.

“I decided to end the pregnancy. It didn’t make any sense to prolong the pain,” she tells me.

“I went to a doctor who was very close to the Church and he suggested that I continue with the pregnancy, so that I would be able to hug my dead baby.”

“He said that that was all the help he could offer me.”

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About the author

Darius Rubics