Argentina set to become first major Latin American nation to legalise abortion

'A state should protect citizens in general and women in particular,' says Argentinian president

Argentina could become the first major Latin American nation to legalise abortion.

On Sunday, the country’s president, Alberto Fernández, announced plans to send a bill to legalise abortion to congress within the next 10 days.

Mr Fernández, who was sworn in as Argentina’s president in December, explained his intentions in his first annual address to congress.

“Abortion happens, it’s a fact,” he said.

“A state should protect citizens in general and women in particular. And in the 21st Century, every society needs to respect the individual choice of its members to decide freely about their bodies.”

If congress approves the bill, Argentina will become the first major Latin American country to legalise abortion, joining Cuba, Guyana and Uruguay.

Abortion is largely illegal across Latin America aside from in cases of rape or if the pregnancy will endanger the life of the pregnant woman.

However, certain countries, including the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua, have outright bans on terminations with no exceptions.

Mr Fernández’s announcement has been welcomed by pro-choice campaigners in Argentina, who suffered a major defeat in August 2018 when a bill to legalise abortion was rejected by congress after then-president Mauricio Macri failed to show his support for the bill.

At the time, tens of thousands of women responded by protesting in favour of legalising abortion in Argentina, where the population is largely Roman Catholic, with many wearing green scarves that have since become a symbol of their campaign.

In response to Mr Fernández’s plans, Mariela Belski, executive director of Amnesty International Argentina, has said: “Congress must now listen to the demands of tens of thousands of women who have fought to have control over what they do with their bodies.

“Access to safe abortion is a human right. Yet in Argentina abortion continues to be illegal, and is only available to women whose life or health is in danger, or where the pregnancy is the result of rape.

“Legalising abortion would be a truly historic step for our country, and women would be able to look forward to a future where their rights are respected and they are treated with compassion.”

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