Argentina’s president Alberto Fernandez will send Congress a proposal seeking to legalize voluntary abortion in his country, reigniting an age-old debate that has divided Argentina for many years. If Congress approves the bill, Argentina will be the first and largest jurisdiction in Latin America to legalize the procedure.

Currently, abortion in Argentina is only allowed in cases of rape or in cases where the mother’s health is at risk. When Fernandez was sworn in as president in December 2019, however, he described abortion as “a matter of public health.”

In his first annual address to the Congress on Sunday, Fernandez revealed his plan to legalize abortion in Argentina in the coming months. “Within the next 10 days, I will present a bill for voluntary termination of pregnancy that legalizes abortion at the start of pregnancy and allows women to access the health system when they make the decision to abort,” he said, prompting dozens of lawmakers to rise to their feet and applaud the announcement.

“The state must protect its citizens in general and women in particular. Society in the 21st century needs to respect the individual choice of its members to freely decide about their bodies,” he added.

The Frente de Todos leader went on to describe Argentina’s current legislation on abortion as ineffective, saying it has only led to hundreds of thousands of more life-threatening clandestine abortions every year. “It has condemned many women of scarce resources to turn to clandestine abortion practices, putting at risk their health and many times their lives,” he said.

Alberto Fernandez revealed that his bill would be accompanied by a new “comprehensive sexual education program” for Argentina and a program that would support mothers in the first 1,000 days of their children’s lives.

The Argentinian president’s move to legalize abortion marks the first time the initiative will have the backing of the president in a Latin American country. Abortion is a procedure largely prohibited in the region. In 2018, there was an attempt to change this law by allowing abortion within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy but it was rejected by the Senate after narrowly passing the lower house Chamber of Deputies.  

Abortion limit Fetus under 18 weeks also feel termination pain Pixabay