Abortion debate Argentina vs. Ireland: what made the difference?


Early in the morning of Aug. 9, Argentina’s Senate soundly defeated a measure to legalize abortion through 14 weeks of pregnancy. (Their current law permits abortion in cases of sexual violence and to protect the mother’s health.)

The intense debate—both in the culture at large and in the Senate chamber—often invoked a similar process that took place recently Ireland, a country with similarly Catholic roots.

There are many instructive comparisons to be made between how the process played out in these two countries.

Activists for legalisation—both in Ireland and overseas—used the 2012 death of Savita Halappanavar to begin the end of the Irish Eighth Amendment protecting prenatal children.

Though independent inquiries, including the coroner’s inquest, found that Halappanavar died as a result of malpractice related to undiagnosed sepsis, activists pushed the false claim that she died because of the Irish law forbidding abortion.

Media and politicians largely accepted this version of the story.

The result was an overwhelming victory for legalisation, with two-thirds of the Irish people voting to repeal the Eighth Amendment and legal protection for prenatal children.

Abortion activists—both in Argentina and overseas—used the 2015 murder of a 14-year-old girl whose boyfriend apparently beat her to death for becoming pregnant to attempt to change Argentina’s law protecting prenatal children.

The difference was that a diversity of views on abortion in the media—and especially the political class—made for an actual debate among those who have power in Argentina.

Abortion activists in both Ireland and Argentina were aided by male chief executives who, while claiming to be anti-abortion, changed their stated views for unclear and possibly dubious reasons.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar campaigned as anti-abortion but shifted his views not only as momentum built to repeal the Eighth Amendment, but also as he became shrouded in controversy when it was revealed many Irish women died of cervical cancer even though his health ministry told them they were in the clear.

Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri, a conservative who described himself as pro-life, nevertheless signaled that if the Senate had voted for the abortion bill he would have let it become law by not vetoing it.

The difference in Argentina was powerful pro-life women in the legislature calling out their male chief executive. Continue reading

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