Buenos Aires, March 1: Argentina is on track to become the first major Latin American country to legalise abortion.
Its president, Alberto Fernández, said on Sunday that he intends to send a legal abortion bill to congress in the next 10 days.
“The state must protect its citizens in general and women in particular,” he said in his first annual address to congress. “Society in the 21st century needs to respect the individual choice of its members to freely decide about their bodies.”
Abortion is illegal across most of Latin America. In a predominantly Roman Catholic region of 21 countries, it is legal only in Cuba and Uruguay, with populations of 11.2 and 3.4 million respectively. It is also legal in Anglican Guyana, population 780,000.
Should congress approve the bill, Argentina – with a population of 45 million – will become the first major nation in the region to legalise the practice.
A previous bill to legalise abortion was defeated in August 2018 following what campaigners allege was a failure by Mauricio Macri, then the president, to throw his support behind it and the church’s strong opposition. This time, however, the bill is being represented by the president, and with the governing party’s support.
Argentina’s women’s rights activists, who have long campaigned for abortion to be legal, warmly welcomed Fernández’s announcement.