Argentina president Alberto Fernandez is under pressure to keep his electoral pledge on abortion. On Sunday, more than a thousand public figures called for Fernandez to send a bill to Congress legalizing abortion.

In an advert published in three Argentinian newspapers on Sunday, public figures, writers, celebrities, and journalists reminded Alberto Fernandez to keep his promise. “The government assumed a public commitment to send a bill to Congress,” the advert reads. “We need legislators to agree on a law to stop more women from dying.”

Fernandez pledged to legalize abortion in Argentina after assuming office in 2019. In his inaugural speech on March 1, he reiterated his commitment to send a bill supporting the act. “Society in the 21st century needs to respect the individual choice of its members to freely decide about their bodies,” he said to applause.

On March 3, however, Argentina recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19 and Alberto Fernandez had to order a nationwide lockdown. The bill has not made any progress since then.

With no end in sight to COVID-19, citizens calling for the legalization of abortion urged the president to keep his commitment. “I’m not convinced any more that fear of a socially divisive issue is the reason abortion isn’t being debated,” said journalist Maria O’Donnell. She questioned why despite widespread opposition and the pandemic, Fernandez was able to push through Congress other controversial bills, including the judicial reform bill.

Author Tamara Tenenbaum, who also signed the advert, also said the pandemic should not be a reason for delaying the bill. “On the contrary, the lack of legal abortion complicates the pandemic because from what I gather it’s the clandestine abortions that end up using beds in intensive care units,” she said.

Seven out of 10 pregnancies in Argentina are unintended pregnancies and clandestine abortions are among the leading causes of maternal deaths in the country. In 2018, the Argentina Health Ministry reported that 35 women had died due to complications following an abortion.

Alberto Fernandez
Alberto Fernández is supporting Daniel Scioli for Argentine president. Creative Commons

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