BUENOS AIRES – Argentina will rapidly implement the newly approved law to legalize abortion to ensure greater reproductive rights reach women in the Latin American country, a top government official has said.
Vilma Ibarra, the legal and technical secretary of the Argentinian government, said the preparatory stage for the amendment of the law had begun and would soon be available to pregnant women.
Ibarra made the remarks in a meeting with international media a few hours after the bill of voluntary termination of pregnancy was approved by the Senate on Wednesday morning, following a marathon debate that lasted through the night.
Ibarra assured that criminal cases against women, who had abortions, would be closed as soon as the government notified the law.
The vote in the Senate, which was expected to be close, ended with 38 votes in favor of the motion, 29 against it, and one abstention.
It is the second time that a bill for legalizing voluntary abortion was debated in the Argentinian congress after a similar text was tabled in 2018 by a civil rights group that managed to get passed in the lower house but was rejected in the senate.
Ibarra said she was satisfied with President Alberto Fernandez’s government for the approval of new abortion law along with another bill dubbed the “1,000-Day Plan.”
The measure is aimed to strengthen healthcare for mothers and newborns in the first 1,000 days starting from a woman’s pregnancy until her child’s second birthday.
She said the abortion law would bring “out of hiding” women who wish to terminate their pregnancy, which according to the new legislation may be done until the 14th week of pregnancy.
“We have an alarming number of clandestine abortions, women putting their lives at risk,” Ibarra said.
She described the situation as a “matter of deep social injustice” and said those women would now be able “to be treated with dignity.”
Ibarra said the legalization of abortion would “undoubtedly have an impact in the region” and added that the government would like to share its experiences with other Latin American countries if they so desire.
Abortion is not legal in a vast majority of Latin American countries, majorly because of the Catholic Church’s objection.
Regarding the possibility of overseas pregnant women who may travel to Argentina to undergo a legal abortion, the official said they would not allow a “business of those wanting to use the health system in Argentina.”
In this regard, she said any Argentinian citizen or resident would have access to abortion but added that “returning to their destinations” after getting it done is something that the government will “be monitoring.”
Several politicians opposed to the legalization said late Wednesday that they would file lawsuits regarding its constitutionality.
Ibarra described it as “a legally robust legislation” and promised that the government would work “actively” to defend it against possible prosecutions.
“Of course, it can be (prosecuted). We are going to defend and we hope that once there is a clear ruling in this regard, everything will be settled (…) This is a job that will not finish in a day,” she stressed.
“The right to conscientious objection cannot prevail over the practice, we want to ensure the practice. On this issue, we have implementation challenges,” Ibarra said, acknowledging that there may be “obstacles along the way.”
She said those who “unjustifiably” delay an abortion would face punishment and pointed out that “there must be at least one person” who can perform the abortion so that the system “can work” anywhere in the country.