Hundreds of thousands marched in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 8, International Women’s Day, to demand the right of women to choose abortion. The march was organized by the National Campaign for the Right to Safe, Legal and Free Abortion, a coalition of more than 300 organizations that includes women’s rights groups, unions and students. The action also protested violence against women and demanded equality.
“We’ve had mobilizations before, but this is the largest one yet,” Marta Alanis, a leader of Catholics for the Right to Choose, told the Militant by phone March 12. “The number of very young women with the green bandana of our national campaign for a woman’s right to abortion took us by surprise. It was like nothing we’ve seen before.”
Abortion is illegal in Argentina, except if there is a threat to the woman’s life or health and in cases of rape. Technically “a woman can sign a statement saying she was raped and she is supposed to be able to get an abortion” with no questions asked, Alanis said, “but in practice many women are not aware of this and many doctors and hospitals will still refuse.” Complications from back-alley abortions are the leading cause of maternal deaths in Argentina.
The large turnout also reflects broader social discontent, including with the government’s economic “adjustment” measures. The economic crisis today hits women particularly hard, Alanis said.
Argentines are watching carefully what is going on around the world. “We knew about the strike by teachers in West Virginia,” she said. “Workers’ struggles in the U.S. have often had an impact around the world.”
One sign of the campaign’s growing strength, Alanis said, is that 70 members of the Argentine Congress from all the political parties have introduced a bill to allow abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.