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ACCESS to abortion was signed into law in Argentina on Thursday night following decades of campaigning by women who led a struggle on the streets for the right to choose.
President Alberto Fernandez signed the law of Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy that brought an end to the criminalisation of abortion in the South American nation.
“We are expanding the women’s right to choose. Women went out to the street claiming for rights that many people did not even realise they lacked,” he said during a ceremony to mark the historic occasion.
“Today we have a better, more equal society,” he added. “This is a great step towards equal rights, giving women the possibility to decide.”
Mr Fernandez acknowledged that it was “the culmination of a long struggle” waged by those campaigning for an end to abortion being “a crime that obliges secrecy and exposure to the risks involved” in back-street procedures.
The government estimates that since 1983 more than 3,000 women have died in more than half a million secret abortions carried out in the country.
Argentina finally voted to legalise abortion when it was approved by the Senate on December 30, two years after a similar Bill had been rejected.
Women’s organisations kept up the pressure despite the 2018 setback, facing opposition from powerful forces, including Pope Francis who compared abortion to the “white glove” of Nazi eugenics.
Women and Gender Minister Elizabeth Gomez Alcorta announced that the sentences of a more than 1,500 people that “have either been sentenced or charged” under the previous legislation will be commuted and all charges dropped.
It is hoped by campaigners that the lead shown by Argentina will spur on similar changes across Latin America which has some of the world’s most restrictive laws on abortion.
A debate is currently underway in Chile to legalise abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, but right-wing President Sebastien Pinera remains opposed.
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