By Cecilia Nowell
BUENOS AIRES — Thousands of Argentinians turned out in the streets and parks surrounding the Palace of the National Congress in Buenos Aires on Tuesday. Donning green scarves, face paint and makeup, activists came out to support the National Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, which presented a bill to legalize abortion to the congress the same day.
Along the main avenues, activists from feminist collectives, human rights organizations and workers’ associations tended booths and distributed fliers about reproductive rights. Street vendors took advantage of the opportunity to start barbecues and sell knock-offs of the popular green scarf worn by supporters of the campaign. Groups of friends gathered in circles to share maté while they waited for the campaign’s presentation to officially conclude inside congress.
In Argentina, abortion is currently legal in only two circumstances: cases of rape or risk to the mother’s health. This year’s bill for “the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy” would legalize abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy in any case and continue to allow “the Legal Interruption of Pregnancy” at any point in pregnancy based on rape or risk to the mother’s health.
The campaign’s proposal is based on seven previous bills it has submitted to congress since its founding in 2005. The group chose May 28 to present the bill to congress because it coincided with the campaign’s 14th anniversary and the International Day of Action for Women’s Health. Last year, the campaign made history when its bill to legalize abortion was debated and voted on for the first time in both houses of the congress. The 2018 bill narrowly failed in the upper house of the congress, but it sparked a “green wave” across Argentina. Rallies in support of the bill drew a million activists to the streets of Buenos Aires.
“Argentina and the world changed thanks to the historic events of 2018,” said María José Corvalan, an activist with the campaign. She explained that the massive protests in June and August last year helped destigmatize abortion by bringing conversations about reproductive health out of the home and into the streets and complicated those conversations by moving beyond only cases of rape or risk to the mother.
Last year’s green wave was very much present at this week’s rally—and is likely to continue in the coming weeks. On June 3, members of the National Campaign will join other Argentinian feminists at the Ni Una Menos march along the Avenida de Mayo, between the congress and presidential office. Ni Una Menos (“Not One Less”) is an anti-femicide campaign that has taken on issues of migration, trans rights and the country’s economic crisis in recent years.
With presidential elections approaching in October, the campaign is committed to keeping abortion in the political spotlight.
“We know that in this time of elections, the candidates feel challenged by our bill and worry about losing votes from those who oppose the bill,” Corvalan said. “Even so, our demand is that they consider and approve the bill.”
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