The Argentinian Green Tide: the right to abort is being won on the streets

Feminist activism in Argentina has managed to introduce a series of public hearings on reproductive rights on the legislative agenda. The debate reached the nation's Congress. Español 

Gabby de Cicco
7 June 2018

"Green tide" feminist demonstration infront of the Congress of the Argentine Republic. Photo: Julieta Bugacoff. All rights reserved.

The 10th of April 2018 will be forever recognised as the day in which, in the entire history of feminist activism in Argentina, the debate regarding the legalisation and depenalisation of abortion was finally discussed through a series of public hearings. This precedes the debate that will take place in Congress for the first time.

Eight projects have been presented, and the one with the most potential is the National Campaign for the Right to Abort, presented on the 6th of March by activists and feminist groups.

Under the name of Draft Bill for Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancies, it is the seventh project presented by the Campaign in seven years.

It understands abortion as a right that can be exercised at the request of the pregnant person until the 14 week point, and until the end of the pregnancy in three cases (pregnancy as a result of rape, danger to the life and physical/mental health of the woman, and foetal malformations). 

It does not consider institutional or individual conscientious objection and it additionally includes abortion in the Obligatory Medical Program (PMO). The Ministry of Health created the PMO in 2002, after the economic crisis of 2001.

Said program guarantees the entire population access to basic medical services for the conservation of their health. 

It’s a tide, a green windstorm that floods everything: the streets, schools, trade unions, homes, theatres, poetry readings, beds. Seeing the green scarf on another is like a sign of solidarity, it’s like saying “we’re fighting for the same”.

In many cities throughout the country mobilisation can be found. The debate is omnipresent, and it is becoming enriched by every activist that speaks up: “legalisation alone or also depenalisation?”, “Don’t forget to include pregnant individuals who do not self-identify as women”, “Let’s use arguments that don’t depart from the basis of eugenics”, “The most important thing is the freedom to choose what to do with your own body and that the state respects that decision”. 


Photo: Julieta Bugacoff

In her exposition before Congress, journalist Mariana Carbajal indicated that every day, 135 women are interned in public hospitals for problems relating to voluntary interruption of pregnancy and that two out of ten of these women are 19 years old or younger.

She added: “abortion already exists: around 450,000 women resort to this practice every year. Criminalisation doesn’t persuade them not to abort. The only thing it achieves is to put their lives at risk”. 

“Because it’s a democratic deficit. Because we decide what to do with our bodies. Because we’re going to win this in the streets” is what is said throughout various actions outside the Congress building and in various plazas across the country.

‘Pañuelazos’, protests which involve hoisting up a green scarf as a flag of battle, poetry readings, signing of documents, and talks are the result of years of feminist activism seeking to include abortion on the public agenda as a matter of health and public policy. 


Picture for supplement Soy: Sebastián Freire

For the first time, the Law of Gender Identity is referred to in a draft bill regarding abortion presented by the National Campaign. It is also the first time the voices of trans men with the ability to carry a child are heard.

“Legal abortion for trans men” is the demand that many bring to the table, and add to a debate that has been largely cis thus far. Trans men that decide to abort must confront a double disadvantage: the fact that abortion is illegal, and the issue of having to deny their gender identity as to avoid mistreatment by those who attend to them.

The photo above was the cover of the diversity supplement of newspaper Página 12 from the 20th April 2018, becoming yet another milestone in this story. 


Photo: Julieta Bugacoff

Mabel Gabarra, lawyer and member of the National Campaign, indicated that the Campaign demands a secular state come into effect: “Legislators and governors can’t let religious principles prevail since they must guarantee the right to freedom of consciousness and the right of all to take free and responsible decisions”.


Photo: Julieta Bugacoff

Activists claim that the state should guarantee the provision of birth control for those who wish to avoid unwanted pregnancies, the implementation of a full program of sex education, and a reproductive health system able to attend those in need without mistreatment, discrimination and penalisation. 

In the month of June, the draft bills will be considered in Congress, and regardless of the outcome, the high degree of involvement of different societal actors in this debate and the different actions that have been carried out have shown that the discussion regarding reproductive rights in Argentina will never be the same again.

There’s a different air, new protagonists participating, and this makes the patriarchy stagger along with the fundamentalisms that sustain it.

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