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Argentina: Senate Passes Bill Legalizing Abortion

(Jan. 7, 2021) On December 30, 2020, Argentina’s Senate passed a bill legalizing abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy. The vote, which took place after a 12-hour debate, saw 38 senators supporting the bill, 29 opposing it, and one abstaining. The new law establishes the conditions under which a woman may voluntarily terminate a pregnancy.

The new law provides that, beginning with the 14th week of pregnancy, abortion will be permitted only in cases of rape or when the mother’s health is at risk, which were the only conditions under which abortion was permitted in the country’s previous abortion law of 1921. It also requires the informed written consent of the pregnant person before the termination of a pregnancy.

The new law gives women the right to access the health care system to terminate a pregnancy within 10 calendar days of a request. In addition, public and private health care systems are required to provide comprehensive free coverage for the voluntary termination of a pregnancy, including diagnostic tests, medications, and support therapies.

Under the new law, minors under 13 years of age seeking an abortion are required to obtain the informed consent and assistance of at least one of their parents or a legal representative. It also recognizes the right of women and people with other gender identities who are able to become pregnant to decide to terminate a pregnancy, request and access abortion care, and receive postabortion care in the health care system.

Regarding conscientious objections to perform abortions, the new law requires health care professionals who refuse to perform an abortion because of their conscientious objection to the procedure to immediately refer the patient in good faith for timely treatment by another professional. Private and public health care centers that do not have professionals to perform an abortion due to conscientious objection are required to be prepared for and arrange a referral to a health care center with comparable facilities where the procedure can be carried out. The law prohibits health care personnel from refusing to terminate a pregnancy when the life or health of the pregnant person is in danger and the person requires immediate and urgent care. It also prohibits asserting conscientious objection as a ground for refusing to provide postabortion health care and makes such a refusal subject to disciplinary, administrative, criminal, and civil sanctions, as appropriate.

The new law also makes the government responsible for implementing comprehensive sex education and establishing active policies for the promotion and strengthening of the sexual and reproductive health of the entire population.

Regarding criminal penalties for violations of the of the law’s provisions, the new law modifies article 85 of the Penal Code as follows:

Whoever causes an abortion will be punished:

  1. by imprisonment for three to 10 years if the abortion was performed without the consent of the pregnant person. This penalty may be increased to up to 15 years if the abortion is followed by the death of the pregnant person.
  2. by imprisonment for three months to one year, if the abortion was performed with the pregnant person’s consent but after the fourteenth week of pregnancy and provided that it is not a case of rape or where the life or health of the pregnant person is at risk.

In addition, the law amends article 86 of the Penal Code so that an abortion performed with the consent of the pregnant person before the 14th week of pregnancy is not a crime.