Argentine women win abortion rights

January 29, 2021

From the January-February 2021 issue of News & Letters

The power and scope of Ni Una Menos is seen in this demonstration against violence against women called by the organization in Lima, Peru, on Aug. 13, 2016. Photo by Lorena Flores Agüero.

At 4:00 a.m. on Dec. 30, the Argentine Senate finally passed an abortion rights bill, making it legal to terminate a pregnancy in the first 14 weeks. Abortion will be free in government hospitals, crucially important for poor women. The law would halt criminal actions against many hundreds of women who resorted to back-alley, clandestine abortions.  This victory was won, not in the Senate that two years earlier had defeated a similar bill, but in the streets, in the organizing, in over ten years of Encuentros [mass meetings], and the continual demonstrations of a powerful feminist movement in Argentina.

While the Senate debated and voted, thousands of women of all ages, wearing green clothes, scarves, and paint (the Green Wave), filled the Plaza with drumming, dancing, speeches, discussions and sloganeering: “Legal abortion is social justice!”

THOUSANDS OF WOMEN IN THE STREETS

We witnessed not only the tension and joy of a single night that became victorious in the early morning, but a social revolution which had brought thousands of women and girls into the streets with their own voices.

Adriana: “I have participated in all the Encuentros and among them many young women did not have the vocabulary. But suddenly they seized the concept with impressive force. Before we had hardly had the demand in our language, but today there is not only awareness regarding the right to abortion but also awareness regarding patriarchy. The debate translated into consciousness. There is no turning back.”

Hopefully, this legalization victory in Argentina will have an impact on movements in other Latin American countries such as El Salvador, which has imposed horrendous criminal penalties on women for having abortions. 

Abortion rights is only one flashpoint in this growing social movement of feminism that is demanding that women have the right to control their own bodies in every realm. The movement is not only in Argentina, but in Latin America as a whole.

In 2015 the call for Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) erupted against femicides—the murders of women for being women. In Mexico, hundreds of thousands of women are involved in Ni Una Menos demonstrations throughout the entire country. March 8, 2020, International Women’s Day, was extended with a nationwide strike on March 9 for women’s rights.

DEMANDS BEYOND ENDING FEMICIDE

The demands of feminism in Latin America do not stop with abortion rights and the ending of femicide. They extend to all areas of society, particularly labor rights. In the San Quintín Valley of Baja California, supplying fruits and vegetables to the U.S., la organización de Mujeres Unidas en Defensa de Jornaleras e Indígenas (Women United in the Defense of Agricultural Day Laborers and Indigenous Women) are working on challenges to working women whose pay is often less than men’s, and who face a double and triple work day in the fields, in the home, and in raising their children.

In Argentina what remains, beyond the positive vote on abortion rights, is a future of rights, conquests and more demonstrations in the streets. “Patriarchy will fall! Feminism will rise!” is the slogan of the Argentine feminist movement.

—Eugene Walker

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