BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (ChurchMilitant.com) - In the pre-dawn hours on Thursday, police violently beat and arrested pro-life advocates rallying outside Argentina's Congress building, where lawmakers were preparing to debate a bill that would legalize abortion, establishing it as a service to be offered universally, free of charge.
In an interview with Church Militant, attorney Ángel Javier Romero of Argentina's pro-life Fundación Mas Vida (More Life Foundation) said that approximately 30 men, women and children were assaulted by police dressed in battle attire and who were wielding truncheons and shields.
Amateur video showed officers beating pro-lifers with nightsticks and breaking up their rally. Pro-lifer Raul Magnasco was thrown to the ground and arrested. The video also showed police arresting a young woman who had been thrown down on the pavement outside Congress.
According to audio testimony provided by Magnasco's wife, she held her child in her arms as she was dragged on the pavement and injured by police. Audibly shaken by the experience, she described the arrests as "terrible" and said she could not understand why the pro-life group suffered far harsher treatment than is meted out to leftist protesters.
According to Romero, an adult female client was injured by a rubber bullet that struck her ankle, causing a festering wound. She required hospital care but has now been released. In court, Romero has accused police of taking orders from "on high" that violated his clients' constitutional rights.
A police statement obtained by Church Militant indicated that four persons were arrested due to involvement in what officers described as an "illegal gathering." In advance of the abortion vote, police divided the large plaza facing the capitol building into one sector for pro-abortion forces and another for 150 pro-life organizations.
Several streets were closed to traffic. Crowds showed up outside of Congress to weigh in on the vote. Right-to-life supporters rallied behind women and babies with the slogan "Yes, to both lives!"
Romero led pro-life efforts in 2018, when an earlier pro-abortion bill was narrowly defeated in the Argentine Senate. He told Church Militant that he hopes that the Senate will hold firm and deny passage. Even so, he said that some senators who formerly defended the unborn appear to be wavering in their opposition to the legalization bill.
On Thursday evening, after hours of debate, the bill passed in the lower house in a 131–117 vote, with six abstentions. The bill received broader support than in 2018, when it passed 129 to 125. The Senate now has the last word. Coincidently, the vote fell on International Human Rights Day and on the anniversary of President Alberto Fernández's assumption of power. The Argentine leader vowed during his campaign to see free abortion legalized for women and girls as young as 13. The bill also mandates the teaching of LGBTQ ideology in all schools.
Notably, in a letter to Republican Project (PRO) deputy Victoria Morales Gorleri and allied women, Pope Francis once wrote: "It's good for us to ask two questions. Is it fair to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem? Is it fair to hire a hit man to resolve a problem?"
When he introduced the bill in November, Fernández tweeted, "It is the duty of the State to preserve the life and health of those who wish to interrupt their pregnancy from the first moments of its development," adding that the "criminalization" of abortion has driven the practice underground, causing a rising death toll among women.
The president's reasoning has been challenged by Argentine pro-lifers such as Dr. Maria Elena Critto. The sociologist pointed to Argentine official statistics that show that maternal casualties in Argentina due to abortion account for mere 0.02% of deaths. Last week, Argentina's health minister, Dr. Ginés González García, claimed:
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.
Federico Pinedo, a scion of a political family that dates to the 1800s, gave lie to pro-abortion claims made by the ruling Justicialist/Peronist/leftist coalition and its feminist allies who claim that Congress merely wishes to decriminalize abortion. A leader in the PRO party, he tweeted: "It is not true that the abortion bill seeks to decriminalize, to not penalize, women. It seeks to authorize some people to have an alleged right over the lives of others." Pinedo once served as provisional president of the Argentine Senate (2015–2019). It was in 2018 that the Senate turned down similar abortion legislation promoted by pro-abortion Peronists and leftists.
PRO deputy Natalia Villa, who represents a district in Buenos Aires Province, tweeted a photo of herself and allies from the floor of Congress, writing: "Friends, great companions in the fight! Always for life!" Deputy Alejandro Rodríguez of the Consenso Federal Party said on the floor of the chamber, "The majority of Argentines do not favor this bill nor the urgency which has been attached to it — especially the men and women of the poorest sectors." Critics of the bill said that the extraordinary session of Congress for debating the bill had been arranged unconstitutionally.
Nevertheless, Romero said that with few friends in the lower house of Congress and no political party that is explicitly pro-life, a victory for the pro-abortion "greens" of all parties was assured in the face of pressure from President Fernández and leftists. Abortion advocates are known for wearing green bandanas to symbolize their cause, while pro-lifers wear sky-blue bandanas that evoke the colors of the Argentine flag and the Virgin Mary.
Romero pointed out that foreign powers such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have pressured Argentina to promote contraception and abortion. The pro-life movement in Argentina, like in the rest of Latin America, is populist and has little support from outside the region.
In 1972, former World Bank president Robert McNamara, who served during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and who is a staunch advocate of population control, visited Argentina and declared that economic development was conditioned on adhering to anti-natalist doctrine.
Argentine feminists of the 1970s likewise promoted an anti-natalist and pro-abortion ideology, one which sought to limit population growth in Argentina and across Latin America. This ideology was propagated by the World Bank Group in league with the United States.
Juan Domingo Perón, who had founded Justicialism as a populist movement that would later bear his name, came to power as an anti-American nationalist with fascist leanings. During his time in office (1946–1955), Perón pushed for nationalization of industry and clashed with both the Buenos Aires elite and the United States.
Perón and his famous wife, Eva, were viewed as shrewd demagogues who founded a personality cult that endures to the present day. In 1955, he fell in a bloody coup after clashing with the Church, the military and business guilds and spent nearly two decades in exile. He returned to power in 1973, but died soon after.
Since Perón's demise, populist Argentine politicians and parties have sought to evoke his memory and that of Eva to appeal to the poor, who see Peronism as a bulwark against moneyed and powerful elites.
Eva Perón, whose popular support is unmatched in Latin American history, was an abortion foe.
In 1950, she told an assembly of nurses: "Sisters, every abortion that you allow is a service to the colonial powers that seek to weaken the revolution. Every son of the people who isn't born is one less man in the defense of the nation and Perón."
In 1952, when the Peronist movement declared her the "spiritual leader of the nation," Eva said, "A woman's womb is the sacred cradle where life is born." She died that year, but her image as a nationalist and revolutionary continues to be evoked today.
What also appears to be lost on modern politicians, including President Fernández, is that Perón was pro-natalist. When he returned to power in 1973, he told an interviewer: "Our poor demographic growth is due to a constant decline in the birth rate."
He went on: "While this cultural trend is hard to reverse, its intensity may be moderated by a policy to protect the family, so that having children is not economically burdensome."
Perón also favored immigration and was the last Argentine leader to propose a wide-ranging proposal to address demographic decline.