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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (ChurchMilitant.com) - After midnight on Wednesday, the Senate of Argentina passed by a 38–29 vote a bill to virtually eliminate all protection for unborn human life.
Thousands of pro-abortion demonstrators were visibly elated when word of the approval came. In contrast, the thousands of pro-life advocates were downcast.
In the days before the vote, more than 1,500 politicians, journalists and celebrities signed a letter proclaiming their support for abortion.
They wrote: "We have been waiting decades for this moment. Legal abortion is a social and cross-sectional demand."
Published on Sunday, their letter went on to say: "It is time to make history. The world is watching us."
The bill will:
On Dec. 2, Argentina's Chamber of Deputies approved the bill and passed it on to the Senate.
Thousands of Argentines gathered outside the capitol building in Buenos Aires, where they stood for hours in sun. The plaza in front of the building was divided by police barricades into two sections, one for the pro-abortion forces and another for pro-life advocates. Pro-abortion leftists, gays and feminists wearing green kerchiefs were entertained by live music and giant television screens so that they could see and applaud their leaders while also receiving greetings from their confreres in Belgium, Chile, Mexico, Spain and elsewhere.
Hours before the vote, Pope Francis repeated on Twitter a line from his Christmas Eve homily that appeared to be directed at his native country. He wrote: "The Son of God was born an outcast, in order to tell us that every outcast is a child of God. He came into the world as each child comes into the world, weak and vulnerable, so that we can learn to accept our weaknesses with tender love."
The Son of God was born an outcast, in order to tell us that every outcast is a child of God. He came into the world as each child comes into the world, weak and vulnerable, so that we can learn to accept our weaknesses with tender love.— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) December 29, 2020
Outside Congress and wearing blue kerchiefs of the same shade as their nation's flag, pro-lifers recalled that debate was taking place on the day on which Catholics remember the Holy Innocents — those children under the age of 2 murdered by order of Herod, according to the Gospel of St. Matthew. Pro-life activist Marcela Errecalde of Argentina related to Church Militant that fellow pro-lifers from the continental pro-life Blue Wave movement elsewhere in Latin America prayed that Argentina would vote down abortion. The issue has divided Argentines, who, outside of Buenos Aires and its suburbs, are largely pro-life.
In a message to Church Militant, pro-life advocate Rodrigo Iván Cortés, who leads a Mexican pro-family association, wrote: "Despite Argentina's legalization of the massacre of children at the hand of a 21st-century Herod, we must not drop our guard but instead increase our efforts with realism and hope because we know what happens when a Herod seeks to solidify his power by killing innocents."
On Dec. 12 2018, Argentina's Chamber of Deputies approved by a vote of 131–117 a similar measure and gave it to the Senate. The upper chamber voted down the measure 38–31, despite raucous rallies by leftists and feminists who filled the streets and plazas of Buenos Aires and outlying provincial cities. Leaders of the Jewish and Muslim communities joined Abp. Oscar Ojea in opposition to the bill.
Abortion is already widely available in Argentina because women can obtain it by claiming rape, fetal abnormalities or health risks. According to a United Nations' report, there were between 370,000–520,000 legal and illegal abortions in 2005. Argentina has a population of nearly 45 million, of which about 14 million people are concentrated in Buenos Aires and its suburbs.
President Alberto Fernández told Congress when he introduced the bill that he wants to eliminate "hypocrisy" in Argentina over clandestinely practiced abortions. According to official statistics cited by Argentine media, 35 women and girls died in 2019 because of abortion complications. Fernández wrote: "[Abortion limitation under the law] has only allowed abortions to occur clandestinely at alarming rates. Every year, close to 38,000 women are hospitalized because of botched abortions."
Fernández's legal counsel Vilma Ibarra, who was part of the team that drafted the bill, said in November: "If this bill is approved, we won't be violating anyone's beliefs. We will see lessened suffering for women and fewer avoidable deaths."
While the lower chamber of Argentina's bicameral Congress debated the bill earlier this month, sociologist Maria Elena Critto disputed contentions that abortion is a health priority. She testified:
In 2018, the last year that statistics are available, we see that there were 172,000 deaths of women, of which 8,000 were of women ages 15–42. Abortion represents 0.2% of deaths among women of fertile age and is ranked 58th in causes of death. If we look at all causes of death among women of all ages, abortion is 78th in ranking and represents 0.01% of causes of death.
Fernández was asked this week by La Nacion newspaper whether he would be disappointed if his bill were defeated. He answered, "I am simply asking for common sense. This problem exists and precedes us. It has existed for many years. The fact is that there is a hypocritical Argentina that denies, just like it denied homosexuality, same-sex unions or divorce. Let's take on again that hypocritical Argentina."
In February, Fernández traveled to Rome for an official visit to Pope Francis. It was in a chapel at the Vatican that Fernández and his consort both received the Eucharist from a resident Argentine archbishop, despite Fernández's resolute endorsement of abortion. He told the media in December that abortion "is a sensitive topic because of religion." He said, "I am a Catholic, and I don't feel any less Catholic for supporting abortion because my duty is to resolve a social problem."
According to Fernández, saints Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo — Doctors of the Church revered for their theology — "admitted that an abortion could be permitted so long as the soul had not entered the fetus," which he claimed occurs "upon the development of the nervous system."
Here there are not two lives as some say. Here it is clearly just one life and the other is a phenomenon ... It is one person and the other is a phenomenon ... I repeat, that it seems to me that [the language] is not used properly ... if it were not, we would be witnessing the greatest universal genocide.
In a message that went viral on social media, Professor Marcelo Diez of Mendoza, Argentina, lamented the advance toward abortion on demand, writing that he is pessimistic about the future. Rather than relying on scientific arguments, he said pro-lifers should realize that "so long as the instruments exist that anti-life forces use to advance, they will continue to advance whether it is abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, pedophilia and whatever occurs to them." The desire to 'be like God' knows no limits if it is based merely on the consensus of political parties, he wrote.
Diez opined pro-lifers "should fight for recognition that there are issues that must not be subject to whims or human will because they do not belong to the realm of positive law. This is the true meaning of 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's.'" To do otherwise, he wrote, would deny that "God is the creator and giver of life" and allow the rise of a "State to which divinity is attributed."