Argentina is set Thursday to become one of just a handful of Latin American countries to allow elective abortion, as neighbouring Chile initiates its own debate on decriminalizing a procedure denied most women on the continent.
President Alberto Fernandez is scheduled later Thursday to sign a law that was passed by the Senate on December 30 — the final step towards legalization in the country of 45 million people.
Congress passed the bill, backed by women’s rights proponents, despite strong opposition from Evangelical Christians and traditional Roman Catholics and disapproval voiced by Pope Francis.
As a result, Argentina becomes the largest of just four Latin American countries where women can choose to have an abortion, joining Cuba, Uruguay and Guyana.
In Mexico, terminations are allowed only in the state of Oaxaca and in Mexico City.
The continent has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws. In El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, it is banned, and women can be sent to jail even for having a miscarriage.
Hundreds of thousands of illegal abortions are performed each year, and thousands of women have died as a result.
In Argentina, terminations were allowed only if the pregnancy was the result of rape or endangered the woman’s life.
Chile restricts abortion to the same circumstances, along with the unavailability of the fetus. Until as recently as 2017, it banned the procedure outright.
Women took to the streets of Santiago on Wednesday to demand access to abortion as debate opened in Chile’s congress on a bill seeking to allow elective abortion until 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The protesters sported green neck scarves like the ones worn by their counterparts in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America rallying for women’s reproductive rights.
The women also performed “A Rapist in your Path”, a song that has become a global anthem against sexual violence.