GENEVA (10 August 2018) – UN human rights experts* expressed deep regret that the Argentinian Senate rejected a bill which would have legalised abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, calling the decision a missed opportunity to advance women’s rights in the country.
“The Senate’s vote has failed women in Argentina and more widely, in a region which has generally very restrictive laws in terms of termination of pregnancy,” the experts said.
“Legislators of the higher chamber have ensured the continuation of an archaic legacy supported by a religious doctrine that embodies harmful stereotypes of women’s roles in the family and society that are inherently discriminatory and oppressive to women.”
The Senate rejected the bill on 9 August by 38 votes to 31 after the Chamber of Deputies had adopted the bill on 14 June.
“We deeply regret that the Argentinian Senate failed to seize this historical moment to demonstrate the country’s commitment towards eliminating discrimination against women in its legislation and to advance women’s and adolescents’ sexual and reproductive rights, in accordance with its international human rights obligations,” the experts said.
It was well established in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and upheld in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that the human rights accorded under international human rights law are conferred to those who have been born. But some propagate a dangerous rhetoric that there is a symmetrical balance between the legal rights of a pregnant woman and fetal interests. However, there is no such assertion in international human rights law.
“The right of a woman or girl to make autonomous decisions about her pregnancy is at the very core of her fundamental right to equality, privacy and physical and mental integrity and is a precondition for the enjoyment of other rights.”
In a country where unsafe abortion is among the leading causes of death for pregnant women, this decision by the Senate endangers lives of women and imposes hardship on them. Hence, the claim often made by opponents of abortion that their stance is "pro-life" is misleading.
“It is known that in countries where termination of pregnancy is restricted by law and/or otherwise unavailable, safe termination of pregnancy is a privilege of the rich, while women with limited resources have little choice but to resort to unsafe providers and practices. The Senate’s failure to advance the bill also represents a failure to protect the rights of women in situation of poverty,” they said.
“We applaud however the historical mobilisation of women and girls in Argentina and commend that this ground-breaking debate has finally taken place in the country. We hope that the momentum is not lost and that it opens up an even larger space for evidence- and human rights-based discussions about the urgent need for abortion law reform,” they added.
Countries where women have the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and are provided with access to information and to all methods of contraception have the lowest rates of abortion. WHO data has clearly demonstrated that criminalising termination of pregnancy does not reduce the number of women who resort to abortion procedures. Rather, it is likely to increase the number of women seeking clandestine and unsafe procedures.
NOTE TO EDITORS: In the context of the debates on the legalisation of abortion, the group of experts has expressed support to the bill and communicated its concerns to the Government and the Congress. An estimated 225 million women worldwide are deprived of access to essential modern contraception, often leading to unplanned pregnancies. For girls, pregnancy and childbirth is one of the most common causes of death in developing countries, with girls under 15 years of age facing five times the danger. As a result of unsafe abortions, each year some 47,000 women die, and a further 5 million suffer temporary or permanent disability. Maternal mortality violates the rights to life, health, equality and non-discrimination. In the framework of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action, States committed to reduce greatly the number of deaths and morbidity from unsafe abortion.
*The experts: Ivana Radačić, Chair of the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice. Press release endorsed by: Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
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