Thousands of women demonstrated on Tuesday evening before the national Congress building in the capital, holding the year's first green "pañuelazo" to reiterate their call for legal, safe and free abortion in Argentina.
Convened by the National Campaign for the Right of Legal, Safe and Free Abortion, the demonstration – which also took place in other cities across the country – brought together activists, leaders, politicians and political and social organisations.
Protesters wore, waved and held up their famous green handkerchiefs and scarves, which symbolise the movement, as they chanted for lawmakers to liberalise existing abortion legislation.
Last year, the movement to legalise abortion dominated national politics. The debate, which ran for months on TV screens, in newspapers, online, in the streets and around the nation’s dining tables, reached a turning point on June 14, when lawmakers in the lower house Chamber of Deputies – after a marathon 22-hour session – passed a bill to allow elective until the 14th week of pregnancy with a thin margin of just four votes. However, the bill subsequently suffered a setback in the Senate in August, when those present rejected the proposal 38 votes to 31.
Argentina now allows abortion only in cases of rape, if the foetus is disabled or for risks to a woman's health. Activists say 3,000 women have died of illegal abortions since 1983. Opponents, meanwhile, insist life begins at conception and complain the bill could force doctors to perform the procedure even when they believe it is hazardous.
Campaigners yesterday called on the nation's politicians to pick up the cause once again and push for a bill to liberalise existing abortion restrictions.
"Today there is a social decriminalisation of abortion," said Patricia Bustamante, 37, a member of the National Campaign for the Right of Legal, Safe and Free Abortion. "We had a positive result in [the chamber of] deputies, but unfortunately, in the national Senate, they are not responding as representatives of the people."
"I believe that this debate was initiated by women and [that it goes] beyond the electoral agenda," said Leticia Maletti, a 41-year-old teacher, referring to Argentina's presidential election due in October.
"It is a movement that is far superior and much broader than any candidate who wants to win an election," Maletti added.
A project to introduce a bill on the topic will be presented before the Congress next month on March 8, International Women's Day, as it is every year.