Argentina’s Congress passed a law recently providing free birth control and advice nationwide. This new law was passed to prevent teen pregnancy, illegal and dangerous abortions, breast and reproductive system cancer, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), reports the Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS).
While the law was passed by the lower chamber in April 2001, strong opposition from some Senators and the Catholic Church delayed the vote in the upper house for over a year.
According to IPS, while health professionals regarded the passing of the law as a huge step forward, many women’s groups are dismayed by gaps in the language, including the lack of a comprehensive list of the birth control methods that will be available. This enables medical institutions to choose not to provide services they label as “abortive.” Women’s groups are also concerned about whether or not minors will be able to seek birth control advice without parental consent.
According to La Prensa, the contraceptives covered by this law must be reversible, non-abortive, and respect the beliefs of the patient. The nation’s supreme court recently ruled that emergency contraception is forbidden in Argentina because the court believes that emergency contraception is, in fact, abortion. “Day-after pills” were allowed in Argentina for over five years before this ruling.
While abortion is illegal in Argentina, approximately 400,000 abortions are performed every year, and about 30 percent of all maternal deaths are due to illegal abortions, according to the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. Also, 15 percent of all live births in Argentina are the result of teenage or preteen pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. The new law can help prevent the 150 deaths a year caused by illegal abortions by allowing teenagers to a consult a doctor about birth control, IPS reports. The law will also encourage more campaigns on issues like HIV, early detection of cancer, and prevention of STDs.