President Alberto Fernández is expected to put forward a bill to legalize abortion in Argentina when the legislative session opens on March 1. The bill would be a victory for the country’s abortion rights activists who began a grassroots movement in 2018 to push for a legalization bill.

Fernández made abortion access a focus of his presidential campaign and is the first Argentinian president to support legalization. Activists saw his election as an opportunity to renew the grassroots pro-abortion protests that began two years ago and ended in the narrow defeat of a legalization bill in Congress. In recent weeks, thousands of protesters wearing green handkerchiefs, symbols of the Argentinian abortion rights movement, gathered in demonstrations in Buenos Aires and other cities to demand legal access to safe abortions.

With exceptions for cases of rape or risk to the life of the mother, abortion has been illegal in Argentina since the 1920s due to major Catholic influences in the country’s politics. However, dangerous illegal abortions are common, constituting the country’s leading cause of maternal death. Recently, widespread activism and a growing women’s rights movement has made legalization relatively popular and broken the taboo on debating abortion.

Earlier this month, the administration confirmed that it would be introducing a legalization, not just decriminalization, bill. But the details of the bill, such as what time limit it would impose on abortions, remain unknown. Regardless, activists see it as a victory, especially following the Senate’s rejection of 2018’s legalization bill. Amnesty International estimates that the vote in Congress will be close, and Fernández could play a key role in pushing the bill across the finish line.

Sources: New York Times 2/22/20; NPR 2/23/20; Buenos Aires Times 2/10/20

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