“Que sea ley”: the battle cry of young Argentine women

500,000 (mostly) clandestine, illegal abortions take place in Argentina every year. Complications caused by illegal and unsafe abortion are the leading cause of maternal mortality here, as a public official noted, “since we had statistics.” Currently, abortion is illegal and penalties for having an abortion can be waved only in cases of rape, when the mother is mentally disabled or if there is a serious risk to the mother’s health. Even then, a judge must decide whether or not to allow for an abortion. In a recent, but hardly unique case, an 11 year old girl who was raped by her grandmother’s 65 year old partner was forced to give birth: a C-section was performed at 23 weeks and the baby which weighed 600 grams died after ten days in intensive care. The young girl, fortunately, survived.

Today, a new bill will be introduced in the Argentine Congress – the ninth of its kind – for “the legal interruption of a pregnancy”. If it becomes law, the project would offer “women or other identities with the ability to gestate” to have legal, safe, publicly-funded abortions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The eighth attempt at make abortion legal in Argentina was approved by the lower chamber, but did not get enough votes to pass the Senate.

The introduction of the bill today will be inaugurated by a massive gathering in front of the Congress building with over a quarter of a million people expected to show up in support. Last year, the proposed law was the cause for a major mobilization of young people – very largely in support of abortion rights – in particular young women, and the pañuelo verde (green handkerchief) has become the symbol of the movement. The gathering will include workshops explaining the proposed law, a pañuelazo rally in support and then a festival. The rallying cry of those in favor is “Que sea ley”: “Let it be law”.

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