Argentina Deals Severe Blow to UN Abortion Advocates
WASHINGTON, D.C., August 10 (C-Fam) Argentina’s senate dealt a blow to UN human rights experts, European nations, and abortion activists when it defeated a bill that would have removed legal protection for unborn children in the first 14 weeks of life. The day-long debate ended in the early hours Thursday morning with a 38-32 vote with two abstentions.
The alliance of abortion activists orchestrated a decades-long campaign to convince Buenos Aires that international human rights law required them to legalize abortion. An attorney present at the pre-vote hearings told the Friday Fax that many senators she met were under that impression going into the vote. “Many experts at the hearings referred to the personal views of UN human rights treaty experts as ‘obligations,’ and they said that Argentina had agreed to them. Both are completely false, but many senators had believed it.”
Architects of the legal campaign hoped Argentina would help topple protective laws throughout Latin America.
UN human rights committees began pressuring the country in 1988. In 2016, the committee that monitors compliance with the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) told the government to “accelerate” passage of the draft law and to remove conscientious objection protection from doctors who oppose abortion. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) told Buenos Aires this year to legalize abortion for adolescent girls.
When Argentina’s supreme court struck down some protections for unborn children in 2012, members of the UN Human Rights Council including Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany told the government to implement it widely. Last year Canada, Slovenia, Iceland, and France pressed Argentina at the same council to enact the law and liberalize abortion during its Universal Periodic Review.
Legal protection is already absent for children conceived as a result of rape or whose mother’s health is at risk.
Argentinians, like other Latin Americans, widely oppose abortion. Last Saturday some 600,000 Argentinians protested the bill in Buenos Aires, organized by the Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches and supported by the Catholic Episcopal Conference. More than three and half million marched in 200 cities in Argentina last May, before the lower house approved the draft law in June, sending it out of committee for the first time.
The legal campaign overcomes public resistance by using hard cases to shame lawmakers and silence opponents. Activists were able to advance the bill in Congress by seizing on public outcry over the 2015 case of a 14-year-old pregnant girl who was murdered by her 16 year-old boyfriend.
Activists lament a “backlash” to their strategy due to conservative lawmakers insinuating themselves into the public debate. The campaign reached a highwater mark in 2006 when Colombia liberalized abortion citing international human rights law.
In Brazil this week the supreme court held a public hearing featuring the international abortion campaign. A lawyer at the U.S.-based Center for Reproductive Rights told the court to respect “the numerous calls made by the United Nations to Brazil to legalize abortion in all cases.” He said the hearing would help bring it to a vote in the court.