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the right to choose in argentina

Monday, September 28, 2009

photo: 'i abort, you abort, we are all silent'

today is the day for women's right to abortion in latin america and the caribbean. abortion is still illegal here in argentina. that's just crazy. i feel like it was a luxury back in canada to not have to engage in this debate, to not feel that a woman's right to choose needed me to defend it.

but here abortion is punishable by law (keep your laws off my body!). so i need to brush up on the statistics, the laws and the relevant local arguments and learn how to hold my own on this debate.
According to Health Ministry estimates, between 450,000 and 500,000 clandestine abortions are practiced every year in this country of 37 million, and the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses reports that 37 percent of pregnancies end in abortion, while 15 percent of the total involve girls under 20 years of age.

Although safe clandestine abortion services are available to those who can afford the high cost, poor women must resort to unsafe abortions practiced in unsanitary conditions. A little over one-quarter (27 percent) of maternal deaths are the result of complications from unsafe abortions, the main cause of maternal mortality and the second cause of death among women of child-bearing age. 
from here.
there is an active movement here to change things. they say:

sexual education so we can choose 
birth control so we can avoid abortions
legal, safe and free abortions so we won't die
Educación sexual para decidir - Anticonceptivos para no abortar - Aborto legal, seguro y gratuito para no morir

but there is such a long way to go. the church is very powerful here, and despite groups like catholic women for the right to decide, the church will remain a very powerful obstacle to the freedom to choose. very few, and mainly marginalized, politicians speak out about the issue.

safe abortion campaign
doctors and judges aren't helping either. there have been a number of disturbing, high-profile cases in recent years (i can only find links in spanish) in which doctors and hospitals have denied access to abortions for girls and women who met the very limited criteria for a legal abortion: when a woman's health is in danger or when a mentally disabled woman becomes pregnant after being raped. these girls and women then went to the courts, as their pregnancies advanced, to try to win their right to an abortion. the cases all had different outcomes, but the attention they attracted has lent some momentum to the debate.

there is a big march in buenos aires today. if i were there i would go - we would all go, the monster, the  monkey, f. and me - and i would ask some friendly-looking fellow marchers how i could get involved. but here i am in macondo. i googled and googled trying to find some signs of life of a women's movement here. i would march, i would help put up signs, design flyers, paint banners, sit through long meetings... but we are light years away from buenos aires. my partner actually had to intervene so that a member of his community health project wouldn't give an 'anti-abortion' talk (complete with images of bloody, 8-month-old fetuses) at the local high school. so never mind giving a 'reproductive health' talk, for now.

it's a topic for another post, but i want to find a good little space to join, to get active. the struggle for our right to choose is something i would join for sure.

(a book i'd like to read:  el aborto en debate. aportes para una discusión pendiente. the author, mariana carbajal, is a kick-ass feminist journalist whose articles (in spanish) in Página/12 are always worth a read.)

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