This article first appeared in Verdad Socialista, the newspaper of the Liaison Committee of Convergencia Socialista-La Verdad and Reagrupamiento Hacia el PST (CS-LV&R-Hacia el PST). This organization belongs to Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR).
After 22 hours of debate in Argentina’s lower house of Congress and a million protesters in the street surrounding the Capitol in Buenos Aires, abortion in Argentina became legal during the first 14-weeks of a pregnancy, pending approval in the Senate on August 8. Celebration erupted on the streets in major cities around the country. This is a defeat for the Catholic hierarchy and the Argentinian-born Pope Francis, who were forced to accept this victory for Argentinian women and all feminists from Canada to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
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The Argentinian Trotskyist feminist Dora Coledesky (1928-2009) wrote in 2008, “I grew up in a middle-class family. After I went to work in a factory, I was surprised by the straightforward and direct way my women co-workers addressed questions of sex and other subjects as well. For them, bread was bread, and wine was wine! For example, abortion was openly addressed on the shop floor, whereas elsewhere it was considered a taboo subject. It was common to hear a co-worker say, ‘Oh so-and-so is not here today because she had an abortion.’ The fact that women voluntarily decided to end their pregnancy was freely addressed. These women simply exercised this fundamental right in practice.”
Addressed or not, the truth is that we women continue to have abortions despite the fact that the high-priced clinics that perform abortions and their lobbyists vigorously oppose the legalization of abortion. It is said that each year 15 billion pesos ($540 million) are spent on abortions with each one costing around 30,000 pesos ($1,080). Meanwhile, underground abortions continue where young women use knitting needles or herbs to end unwanted pregnancies.
Other strong anti-abortion lobbies are the Catholic Church and other religious and evangelical groups. Recently, the Catholic Church changed tactics. The Bishops Conference published a statement that was both very manipulative and, at the same time, more cautious in tone. The statement tried to compete with the serious questions raised at the most recent annual Encuentro Nacional Mujeres by feigning naiveté and asking, “Señora, where would you be if your mother had had an abortion?” Over and over we have been subjected to such evasions that are much more than remarks made with a hostile and prudish frown. No, behind them lies a militant anti-abortion strategy.
The Catholic Church could care less about the death and suffering that exist from botched and unsafe abortions, despite statements that proclaim concern for the lives of women. There are also avowals from right-wing Catholics like the prestigious Dr. Abel Albino who claims to be troubled about malnutrition among children, while declaring that sexuality among the poor, “…takes place in an atmosphere of promiscuity and animal instinct, lechery, pornography, autoeroticism, incest, unnatural sex, rape, pedophilia, contraception, abortion, infidelity and prostitution.” In truth, such reactionaries are as unconcerned about the death of poor women as they are about infant malnutrition.
Carolina Bartalini points out that, “Countries without the right to voluntarily end pregnancies in fact legislate the death of women. Statistics indicate that 100 women die each year in Argentina due to clandestine abortions.” Bartalini continues, “Why isn’t this addressed? Why is there silence around these deaths? Why do we speak of abortion only privately, in whispers? If health is a public issue, abortions must also be!”
Happily, abortion is now a public issue in Argentina. It is both defended and demanded by feminist activists using a wide range of tactics. And it is widely discussed in the rising worldwide struggle of women, especially in Argentina. This should make us very proud!
We must redouble our efforts to demand our liberation by mobilizing around the following three main demands:
Sex education to empower women!
Contraceptives to avoid the need for abortion!
Free, safe abortions on demand!
We also urge our readers to fight for these two additional slogans:
State production of misoprostol!
End all state funding for the churches!
Contact CRIR at firstname.lastname@example.org.