By Walter Bianchi
BUENOSAIRES (Reuters) – The Argentine lower house presented a bill on Tuesday to legalise abortion less than a year after the Senate rejected similar legislation, backed by a persistent groundswell of support from the abortion rights movement.
The new measure is essentially the same as last year’s legislation but adds safeguards for all women seeking an abortion, regardless of sexual identity, while removing certain legal requirements that could slow judicial approval for an abortion.
Protesters clad in the trademark green bandanas that have become a symbol of the movement took to the streets of Buenos Aires to support the bill.
“In essence, the project is the same. But we’ve made some changes according to the lessons we learnt last year,” said Nina Burgo, founder of the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion.
The movement, backed by feminist groups galvanized in recent years to stop violence against women, has argued the legislation would end unregulated abortions that government data show is the leading cause of maternal deaths.
In August, the Senate voted 38 to 31 against the proposed measure, which would have legalized a woman’s right to seek an abortion into the 14th week of pregnancy. The bill had narrowly passed in the lower house in July.
“I can only hope that this time, [lawmakers] vote their conscience, and that they consider the children that die in these clandestine abortions,” student protester Abril Gonzalez on Tuesday.
There are at least 350,000 illegal abortions in Argentina every year, the Ministry of Health estimates, though international human rights groups say the number may be higher.
Current Argentine law only permits abortions in cases of rape, or if the mother’s health is at risk.
Uruguay and Cuba are the only Latin American countries that now have broadly legalized abortion.
(Reporting by Walter Bianchi, writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)